Underwater utopia being created out of decommissioned oil rigs

An Aquaman-type underwater utopia is being developed near Koh Pha Ngan island in Surat Thani province, out of redundant oil and gas rigs.

Thailand’s Natural Resources and Environment department revealed plans are well underway to utilise decommissioned oil rigs to develop a new diving destination for tourists located around 7.5 nautical miles north east of Koh Pha Ngan island.

The benefits of the steel rigs being turned into artificial coral reefs to form part of a marine ecosystem is threefold: to attract diving enthusiasts to the area, improve the environment for marine species, and support the fishing industry.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa says he is happy with the project’s development, jointly carried out by US-based Chevron, Chulalongkorn University, who have invested nearly 35 million baht into the enterprise, and the Marine and Coastal Resources Department, which began in April 2019.

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Varawut believes the metal structures will help build a new coral reef sightseeing area, attracting dive tour operators and divers, and if successful, the artificial coral reef area could be expanded.

Supichai Tangjaitrong, managing director of Chula Unisearch under Chulalongkorn University, says as artificial coral reefs grow, they attract fish and a number of other marine species. He added that at the moment the site is mainly attracting fish and the coral reefs need time to grow to be suitable as a new diving site.

Since the project got underway, the fish population density has more than doubled to 215 fish per 100 square metres, up from 97, while varieties have risen to 47 species, up from 15.

Supichai says small organisms serving as food for various marine animals have been found at the site, while local fishermen revealed that some rare fish species have returned to the area after a long absence, such as African pompanos and torpedo scads.

South Thailand NewsThailand News

Bob Scott

Bob Scott is an experienced writer and editor with a passion for travel. Born and raised in Newcastle, England, he spent more than 10 years in Asia. He worked as a sports writer in the north of England and London before relocating to Asia. Now he resides in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is the Editor-in-Chief for The Thaiger English News. With a vast amount of experience from living and writing abroad, Bob Scott is an expert on all things related to Asian culture and lifestyle.

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