Seabed sculptures to draw divers

ANDAMAN COAST: The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) plans to install novel underwater attractions off the six Andaman provinces affected by the tsunami. The underwater structures and designs are ostensibly to attract divers in lieu of tsunami-damaged coral.

The Marine Science Faculty of Kasertsart University will be the main consultant to the project after the DMCR approached the faculty to design the structures.

Dr Thon Thamrongnawasawat, of the Marine Science Faculty at the university, is the chief adviser to the project. He told the Gazette that its main objectives are to make sub-aqua Thailand more attractive for scuba divers, and in the process to tap into the lucrative dive industry.

“The tsunami affected a lot of the Andaman’s underwater landscape, with about 19% of coral affected at Surin Island and the Similans,” he said.

“This project doesn’t aim to replace the coral itself, but we do want to attract more divers. We will place the sculptures on flat sand, away from the coral.”

Dr Thon explained that, according to Tourism Authority of Thailand statistics, about 300,000 overseas divers come to enjoy the country’s spectacular dive sites each year, and about 80,000 Thais are also certified card-holding scuba divers.

“Don’t forget that the two biggest income sources in the tourism industry are diving and golf,” he added.

“This is not a ‘dream project’ – it will happen in the Andaman coastal provinces before March next year, and funding has already been approved. Exactly where we will place the sculptures will be decided by officials in each province.”

The cement structures will be sunk two-rai “gardens” in the waters off Ranong, Satun, Trang, Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga, with a budget of four million baht per province. The structures will differ from province to province, but the same method and placement techniques will be used. They will be two meters high and will be sunk in 10-12 meters of water.

Themes vary. For example, Satun Province has plans to sink pirate statues off Tarutao Island – a nod towards its wild and lawless past.

Krabi Province will place underwater Stone Age-themed figures off Phi Phi Island.

Phuket aims to sink a Thai-style house off Koh Racha, and Ranong will follow a traditional Thai story theme with statues of Phra Apai Manee.

Phang Nga plans to sink concrete Chinese zodiac signs off the Similans or Surin Island, and Trang will follow its sub-aqua romantic theme of late (Koh Kradan is the site of an annual mass wedding underwater) by sinking sculptures of dugongs shooting “Cupid” arrows.

Phuket News

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