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World Environment Day 2022: Scuba divers on climate change, how pandemic impacted marine life

This World Environment Day, scuba divers highlight how human activities negatively impact the environment, and how pandemic came to the rescue

coral reefs The oceans even have macro life and corals which are declining in numbers faster than we imagine (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Scuba diving teaches one to slow down, said Zorawar Purohit, adding that it is what first attracted him to life under water. “You are just there in the moment, unlike everyday life where you are expected to keep moving faster. Underwater, it is all about one’s ability to assimilate everything at a slow pace,” added Purohit, reflecting on his 11-year-old journey as a scuba diver in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. “And when I say ‘everything’, I particularly mean the many aspects of marine life that are less spoken about,” he continued.

But, his dives have also shown him the impact humans have on the environment, which he terms as “grave”. “We have learnt enough about the ecosystem to realise the negative impact of human activities on marine life. I have not seen any positive impact of human activities in over a decade now. We have seen more waste gather from the east coast of India coming in to the Andamans when the winds blow in this direction. Also, more waste debris forms in the ocean during monsoons, which gets trapped in the mangroves‘ roots — a huge form of ocean pollution,” shared Purohit, who organises beach clean-ups, and debris collection and clean-up drives.

Zorawar Purohit on his scuba diving experiences (Source: Zorawar Purohit)

Agreed master scuba diver Vidhi Bubna, who added that human activities related to fishing are something that must be addressed on a priority. “Marine life is precious. It does not harm humans as is generally portrayed in movies. And, sharks are shy creatures, not dangerous. Scuba diving has taught me the relationship we share with marine life — we co-exist with them. Which is why, more than ever, we need to conserve marine life since human activities is harming the marine population,” she said. Bubna has been vocal about coral conservation which also led her to start Coral Warriors – India’s first ever diving grant.

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But Azeem Harianawala, PADI scuba instructor, is quick to point out that rise in water temperatures, ghost nets (discarded fishing nets), and trawler fishing have also contributed to coral bleaching, and lots of dead reefs. “During my dives, I have seen  coral bleaching, and lots of dead reefs,” he said.

Surprisingly, divers agree that the pandemic, was no less than a blessing for marine creatures. “We saw some fascinating creatures like stingrays come and swim along the jetty, unlike at other times when marine animals tend to run away. Indeed a rare sight after a long time,” said Purohit, who is the director of goAndamans.in, a travel company.

Azeem Harianawala is a PADI scuba instructor

“While it affected the tourism industry and people’s livelihoods, it was a great leveller when it came to its impact on the environment,” Purohit added, while highlighting the theme for World Environment Day 2022 — ‘Only One Earth’.

Additionally, divers speak of a positive change that has come about post-pandemic — “sensitive, mindful travelling” which was non-existent before. “When the pandemic struck, nature got a breather from human activity. This was evident from cases of marine life and corals booming. Now, after the pandemic, we are seeing a rise in revenge travel where people want to travel more and live their life. More people are scuba diving than ever and are getting aware about the oceans, corals, and marine life. With a rise in travel and scuba diving, we are also seeing a rise in general awareness about conserving oceans and marine life,” said Bubna.

Vidhi Bubna is a master scuba diver (Source: Vidhi Bubna)

So, how can one drive realistic, on-ground changes since studies say 60 per cent of oxygen on Earth comes from the ocean? The latest technique used for coral conservation is called ‘biorock’ or mineral accretion technology. “Biorocks are sunken steel frames connected to a low voltage current to help in the regrowth of broken fragments of live coral, which are manually attached by divers on the frame,” Harianawala described, stressing that due to electric currents, coral reefs are able to grow faster than their actual growth.

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According to Bubna, it is also necessary to include children in activities aimed at highlighting the perils of climate change. “It’s important to read books, watch documentaries, and movies with the right information to gain more awareness about marine life. We need to broaden our definition of the environment and conserve it. The oceans even have macro life and corals which are declining in numbers faster than we imagine. It’s a priority to conserve them and we must all collectively act now,” added the 23-year-old Mumbai resident.

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First published on: 03-06-2022 at 17:30 IST
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