REEF REVIVAL 2022
One of the most pivotal components of the Diploma program is naturally the long awaited CAS Project. The CAS project requires the student takes individual initiative in order to plan and carry out a certain meaningful endeavor.
In reality, ever since DP1 I have had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do for this project, wanting to do something that I was not only passionate about but also achieved multiple learning outcomes in one go. What was my idea? Planning, organizing and carrying out Dive Cleanups for Reef Revival (the non-profit collective I created in 2019 to clean up Sri Lanka’s oceans through diving). We have made significant progress in this area since I inadvertently began my CAS project almost a years ago, and this past weekend I just completed another renewed cycle of our cleanups but this time, on a different coast of Sri Lanka thus expanding our horizons even further!
Here are some of the learning outcomes my project has achieved:
Having dived since I was 11 years old and having carried out dive cleanups since the 10 grade for my personal project has given me a lot of the experience I needed to make this project a success. Going into this, I was able to have a clear idea of my strengths and shortcomings as in my previous cleanups we have met a few obstacles with doing things like bringing in too many people, facing ethical dilemmas regarding what to and what not to retrieve from the ocean and also having struggled to bring certain items to the surface due to entanglement. This time around I was able to ensure that we had less people on board and brought the right tools to detangle certain debris. We did have a fair share of shortcomings, but it’s all a learning experience for the future (which I will elaborate on later).
Carrying out a dive cleanup has no shortage of challenges in the long run. Whenever you are carrying something of this nature out the most important thing to consider is that there are people’s lives on the line and that cannot be compromised and ensuring that people are safeguarded becomes your number one priority. Thus, during the duration of the dive and before I had to ensure that people were aware of the dangers and were qualified enough for the dives especially considering that one of them was a nitrox dive (enables for a longer stay underwater at a specific depth) which was made especially difficult by the fact that it was a new dive site that not even the instructors have carried a cleanup on before. As for new skills in my previous diving experiences I wasn’t allowed to carry any tools i.e. knives, nets etc. but this time I was able to so I had to master the use of that while also learning how to take part in nitrox dives since usually they require a specialty course.
This clean up and my overall project Reef Revival in particular has been my initiative since I started out at the start of DP1. My only cleanup I had done previously was during my personal project in MYP 5, but all of this was relatively new to me. I began Reef Revival in 2019 with the intention of raising awareness and doing my part as a diver to clean up the oceans. Sri Lanka frequented in its carrying out of beach cleanups however, the undersea areas always remained neglected and it was visible. A lot has happened since the start of my CAS project which as I’m writing this, I realize has been a much longer commitment than I remembered. Throughout this process I have kept in touch and reached out to all of these individuals in order to make things happen. I had trained divers with the help of Sri Lanka Diving Tours to carry out these dives, planned and organized timings, dates, kept up with progress and even been very hands on the with actual carrying out aspects. Reef Revival has now expanded from underwater cleanups to beach cleanups and now ensure that regular dive cleanups are carried out in not only Negombo but Trincomalee and Batticaloa with beach cleanups in Mt. Lavinia. We contribute data to organizations like PADI Aware and now even have our own social media that we use to spread awareness. We also have 2 featuring articles (interviews) on Sri Lanka’s Sunday times about this!
I don’t think there is any better way of showing my commitment to something than a 7 year hobby turned into a personal project which led to an environmental organization for change being created. Like I mentioned earlier, I have been diving since I was 11 years old and I am now a certified Advanced Open Water Diver. My personal project was just a glimpse at the possibilities that were to come in the upcoming years as I decided to take things one step forward and expand upon this inkling of an idea that has impacted so many. This has been a long work in progress featuring change, adapting, expanding and networking and it will only continue to grow in the future.
It started out as my personal project idea and then evolved into an diverse endeavor that has since included everyone from the diving community, to friends and family to strangers, activists and even global organizations with nearly 18 dives which I have directly been involved in completed. It has been fruitful to say the least. You may have noticed how I went from the use of I to the use of “we” earlier on. Because that is exactly what this initiative is about. It went from one little 15 year old girl’s idea to a community wide project within a matter of years and that’s what it took to make this function and big thank you is owed to Sri Lanka Diving Tours, PADI, IVY Girls Lead, The Sunday Times and even the OSC community for making it possible! (That goes without saying my mom and dad also had a huge role to play in this, inspiring my love for diving and making all of the cross country trips.) Completing this project has helped me realize the importance of teamwork. People from all works of life and knowledge about dive cleanups contributed to this cause and the result has been IMMENSE. This goes without saying that there is absolutely no possible way in which this would have been completed without external help, carrying out a cleanup and raising awareness thereafter is no small feat!
Underwater pollution has immense global resonance especially as of late. With many species of marine organisms going extinct or being on the brink of extinction, the importance of sustaining this biodiversity is so very essential. Fish and other species that live within these areas of debris accumulation are largely at risk of dying due to issues like swallowing plastic, net entanglement and starvation which is why I chose to pursue this project in the first place. By no means did it feel right to allow animals to suffer due to our negligence in a way that could cause a massive chain reaction starting with impacting the food chain. In addition to this the presence of debris was also impacting local tourism as in Trincomalee for example tourists were less and less willing to visit certain dive sites due to the lack of aesthetic appeal. Nothing excites them or myself about paying hefty sums of money to dive and having to swim through schools of plastic.
In the past two years, all blogs I have uploaded and the activities that I have pursued within them have always considered the ethical implications of my actions. In this project especially that subject was centerfold. I had to ensure that all divers were safe and aware. I was ethical in making sure that no relics were removed from the Swami Rock dive site, and ensured to not harm any animals in the process. Lastly, I credited everyone responsible for the success of this project in the long run and the general ideals of Reef Revival itself are very much centered around the idea of being ethical and ensuring that animals don’t suffer because of human ignorance.
One Last Dive (For Now):
The last two dive cleanups I carried out was in Negombo the past weekend. The first dive was a nitrox dive carried out at Derana Gala, a 25 m dive site and Diyamatte Gala which was close to a commercial fishing area at around 14 meters depth. After a briefing and around a month of planning which often got pushed back due to Covid concerns, we finally set out to dive. This time around I had been given all the gear I required to release debris myself which was exciting. On our dive we had 7 people with us, my brother, myself, my diving instructor Feli, a volunteer from Germany called Johann and our boat driver Raja. This may seem like a small number of people but especially with specialized dives it is always best to keep the number of people to a minimum.
The first dive was successful and thankfully there was much less debris than we expected since the site was quite far from the shore and any civilization. But it should be alarming that there was still debris there despite how isolated the place was. The debris we primarily found on the first dive was plastic bags and bottles ( a lot of them). The second dive was completed on the following day. This time we had a slightly bigger crew, a friend of ours, Steph from Bristol, and another one of the recreational divers joined in on the fun. This dive site was much more polluted than the last because as it turns out our dive instructor had made the mistake of telling the local fishermen that there was a thriving reef near by. And much to our horror by the time we got there there were at least 9 boats anchored right on the reef! This time around the dive conditions were a little more rocky and we had to steer well clear of the boats above us. The fishermen’s presence had created a notable change in the reef. There was lunch sheets, plastic, hooks, nets, bottles, cages almost anything you name it, they had it. We spent a good 40 minutes or so retrieving this debris before we headed back home. The data was then logged onto the Project AWARE site and also shared on Reef Revival’s social media. It was a long two days but I felt a sense of pride in completing it and Feli and his son Sashaan (who I dived with in Trinco) pledged to keep the cleanups going in all 3 locations even when I was in university.
All that ends well, ends well
It’s over! (It’s not, not really). Although I have done my share of writing for the CAS project, Reef Revival will not be stopping anytime soon! We have so much to do, and while I can’t be around the island throughout the year I have left enough of a legacy behind for these cleanups to be continued where they are due. Now I might be heading to university in a few months but I do have a little brother who is just as keen about diving as I am, and I have no doubt in my mind that he will be able to take over my job of planning and initiating future cleanups. That being said, I will be as involved as possible given the circumstance of course 🙂