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'Reefballs' help restore tsunami-damaged coral

A CURIOUS addition to the Tsunami relief works in Thailand is the 'reefball' project under way on the island of Racha near Phuket on the country's west coast.

The month-long scheme is using beach balls of varying sizes as moulds for concrete spheres with holes in them, which are placed on the seabed as substrata for new reefs.

The aim is to replace damaged coral reefs for ecological restoration and as beach protection against future storm and tsunami events.

'The balls are various sizes up to 2t which are sunk and then seeded with fragments of coral from the debris of the tsunami, ' explained Kathy Kirbo, executive director for the US-based Reefball Foundation.

The foundation has been developing the restoration system for just over a decade and has dozens of schemes worldwide.

'Usually within a year a new reef structure will be growing, ' Kirbo said. Ball size and concrete mix is determined by the species of coral to be grown.

A team of 30 volunteers, chosen from 150 applicants, is working on the Thailand project. These include ecologists, teachers, divers and some with construction experience. The foundation hopes to start projects in the Maldives and Sri Lanka shortly.

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