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Asia Dive News : Tsunami rebuilding threatens Asian coral reefs

Coral reefs that survived the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami are coming under threat from rushed rebuilding efforts in the region, two international environmental groups said on Thursday.

In a report issued in Geneva, they said studies along coastlines hit by the tsunami, the tidal wave which left nearly 200,000 dead on December 26, 2004, found little harm to coral formations.

Only a few reefs were severely damaged, and most would recover naturally within 10 years, said the two bodies -- the inter-governmental World Conservation Union and the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network.

They said clean-up efforts had already addressed much of the initial damage which came from debris backwashed from shorelines mainly off the coasts of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia.

Since then, however, new threats have emerged from a rush to rebuild homes and other buildings wrecked by the tsunami.

The need for urgent supplies of building material has led local people to take sand and rock illegally from the coral reefs, which are protected under international conservation agreements.

Felling of coastal forests for building timber has also increased the risk of landslides that could cover reefs with sediment.

"Reconstruction material should be drawn from sustainable sources and not from protected areas or steep forested hills," the report said. "Sand and rock should not be dredged or mined from coral reef flats."

Donations of new, powerful and highly efficient boats and equipment to fishermen who lost their gear in the tsunami also heightened the likelihood of over-fishing and a decline in fish stocks, it added.

"A balancing act is required to re-establish employment for the fishers, while introducing sustainable fishing practices ... so that communities will have sustainable fisheries benefits in the future," it said.

Source: Reuters