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The project Zooxanthellae initiated by Rotaract Club of University of Moratuwa emerged South Asia Regional Winner in Rotaract Outstanding Project Awards 2018/19 and was selected as a Rotaract Outstanding Project Award Finalist for the year 2018/19.

This is the most tempting and famous news discussed by almost everyone, but have you ever wondered how it all began? Why such a lengthy name like “Zooxanthellae” was used and whether conserving corals is the only benefit to the community through this?

In the midst of the celebrations of this great achievement, I would like to make this an opportunity to disclose some exciting facts regarding the project, “Zooxanthellae”.

The concept of this project was brought forward by Rtr. Sahan Jayawardana during his service as Director-Environment of Rotaract Mora during the year 2016/17.

Zooxanthellae are a type of algae that live inside the polyp of the corals which provide all the nutrients to the corals and give them their unique colours. Without Zooxanthellae, corals would completely bleach leaving no life in them. Hence our team named the project as “Zooxanthellae” to depict the fact that the project would provide life to the coral reefs just as the algae Zooxanthellae provide life to the corals. This simple yet deep fact depicts how far our team has thought about.

Without any further delay, I must mention that this is not at all an achievement of a single team. We partnered up with lots of authorities in order to make this project a victory. They were the backbone to us throughout this massive journey. They are Siam City Cement Lanka Ltd, Sri Lanka Navy, Ministry of Defense, National Aquatic Resources Research & Development Agency, Marine Environment Protection Authority, Department of Coast Conservation, Department of Wildlife Conservation and Department of Earth Resources Engineering, University of Moratuwa. Each one of them guided and supported Rotaract Mora eminently throughout this massive voyage.

At the beginning of the project, several surveys were conducted with the help of National Aquatic Resources Research & Development Agency to find out a place satisfactory for coral growth. After also considering the factors such as economic background and the lifestyle of the community, we chose the coastline of Rumassala. Our intention was not only to conserve coral reefs, but also to enhance the economy of the surrounding community with the attraction of tourists. While the promotion of coral growth creates a marine habitat, the corals become a tourist attraction through the project, and hence benefits the low-income families in the region who make a living through tourism by providing facilities for snorkelling, diving, boat rides and so on.  Sri Lanka was named as the best country to travel in 2019 according to the Lonely Planet ranking. Therefore, this project will essentially benefit to the economy of Sri Lanka in the tourism aspect in the years to come.

Another significance of Zooxanthellae is that it is the very first attempt in Sri Lanka to use steel structures to support coral growth. These steel structures were built with the sponsorship of Siam City Cement (Lanka) Ltd., while the construction of structures was monitored by oceanography expert Prof. Nalin Ratnayake and the French marine biologist Mr. Thomas Lee Berre in this nature-friendly initiative.

In order to make the project a success, it’s important that every contributor give their maximum support towards the best interest of the environment. Therefore, Zooxanthellae organized a workshop for Sri Lanka Navy divers to provide them with the technical knowledge and skills with regard to the placement of steel structures on the ocean bed to facilitate the growth of corals.

Even on the deposition day, an awareness session was conducted to all the gathering regarding the importance of corals and how to conserve them. This session was highly beneficial for all participants.

Our appreciable achievement of the project was marked with the confirmation of the growth of the corals attached to the steel structures by the Navy Commander. In order to ensure the sustainability of Zooxanthellae, progressive growth is constantly monitored by Sri Lanka Navy.

All these facts described above confirms that the project  “Zooxanthellae” is not only focused on Environmental conservation, but it’s also diversified in a way that is helpful to the economic and community development as well.

Coral reefs represent some of the world’s most spectacular beauty spots, but they are also the foundation of marine life: without them, many of the sea’s most exquisite species will not survive.

Sheherazade Goldsmith

The journey “Zooxanthellae” is never ending. There’s always going to be growth, improvement and adversity. Continuing the journey of this mammoth endeavour, Rotaract Mora has already decided to continue the same process in the Trincomalee coastal belt, starting from surveys to deposition of steel structures.

The Rotaractors of Rotaract Mora, together with the heartiest support of many parties, have come a long way gifting the Mother Nature with one of the most productive methods to protect the beauties beneath the ocean waves. Yet, there’s still a long way to go. The eminent recognition and appreciation earned by Zooxanthellae in Rotaract Outstanding Project Awards 2018/19 is indeed encouragement for all of us to do greater service to the environment as well as the community in the upcoming years. Like the zooxanthellae that add colour and nourishment to corals, Rotaract Mora will thrive to add colour to many souls and nourish many lives.

Last but not least, while conveying my heartfelt congratulations on this well-deserved success I wish best of luck for the next adventure!