Jasper, Greenpeace South East Asia climate and energy campaigner, took time out from a coal industry conference in Bali to go coral diving.
Waking up early is always a pain, however, the prospect of going snorkelling in one of Bali’s best dive destinations is more than enough reason for me to drag myself out of bed at 5:00 a.m. Our destination is Menjangan Island, part of the Bali Barat National Park and Marine Reserve. Also known as ‘Deer Island’, it is home to one of Bali’s most popular scuba diving spots. Our mission is to bear witness to the amazing beauty of its coral reefs, which are threatened by massive bleaching due to sea temperature rise.
Following a bone-shaking 3-hour ride we arrive at the beach resort to catch the boat to Menjangan Island. With us is Professor Iyingketut Sudiarta of Warmadewa University in Denpasar, a marine biologist who has been studying Menjangan Island’s coral reefs. Our party boards two glass-bottomed boats, which afford us excellent, otherworldly views of the underwater world. We first head north east to check the area just outside the marine reserve. Our mood soon changes to one of depression and desolation as we find evidence of the appalling impacts this coral reef ecosystem has suffered. Professor Sudiarta tells us that reefs in the marine reserve suffered massive coral bleaching from the record high sea temperatures of the 1998 El Nino which hit 75-100% of the coral cover.
We then head west to Menjangan Island, looking forward to a less depressing sight and some snorkelling. The island’s dive sites boast great visibility, unspoilt coral, and abundant marine life. Through the glass bottom of the boat, we immediately notice the difference in the coral within the protected area. It is stunning and full of life with many different species of colourful fish everywhere, in stark contrast to the desolate reefs that we visited earlier. The dive sites contain 30 - 60 metre high walls of coral, with a fantastic array of soft and hard coral cover. From a depth of about 5 metres you can already find caverns and overhangs covered with soft corals and sponges.
I grab a set of diving skins for a closer look. A pair of brightly coloured Fusilier fish greet me as I swim towards the wall, while a Triggerfish eyes me warily. I begin to explore the crevasses hoping to spot a moray eel while enjoying the colourful garden formed by the massive, branching hard corals. The underwater world has never failed to amaze me and this dive spot ranks high on my list. However, the threat of massive coral bleaching and the desolate picture of the reefs we visited earlier lies heavily on my mind even as I enjoy the amazing sights of the healthy coral.
On the other side of the island, the coal industry is gathering for one of its regular Coal Trans meetings where business expansion is plotted and the discussion is all about profits, profits, profits with little regard for the environment, in particular climate change. The coal industry is responsible for about two-thirds of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions in the electricity sector and is the biggest climate change pollutant among fossil fuels.
It is even much more depressing to think that with the prediction of a more frequent El Nino and the subsequent massive bleaching, the Bali Barat National Park marine reserve and similar reserves around the globe stand little chance of survival if the coal industry does not stop its criminal ways. While the coal industry parties, the corals and our reefs are heading for a certain death. Join the energy revolution today.