GEORGE TOWN: The government has come under fire for placing miniature replicas of 11 Asean landmarks on the seabed at a popular diving spot in the waters off Terengganu.
An activist told FMT this posed a danger to coral reefs there.
The tourism, arts and culture ministry is said to have spent RM300,000 from the Asean Cultural Fund to place the replicas on the seabed at Pulau Bidong.
Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia (Ecomy) CEO Andrew Sebastian said the project went against the principles of marine tourism and the money spent could have been used to protect the ecosystem there.
He said objects placed on the seabed would often be destroyed by strong monsoon undercurrents and the debris would crash into precious coral reefs.
He also said the materials used in making the objects might prove injurious to the marine ecology there.
Malaysia is part of the coral triangle and home to some of the world’s most diverse marine life. Sebastian noted that diving spots in the country were some of the most sought after in the world.
“We don’t need to sink the Titanic or put up an underwater museum to get people to visit,” he said. “Divers don’t come to see underwater replicas of buildings.
“It is a visual desecration. It also stands to impede coral growth.
“Most divers will avoid such a circus. We must now urgently monitor the area so that these objects don’t get destroyed and crush the reefs.”
He said the RM300,000 could have been used to place more artificial reefs and other fish aggregating devices to increase breeding and help other conservation efforts.
The 11 underwater monuments include the Petronas Twin Towers, the Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque of Brunei and the Jose Rizal Monument of the Phlippines.
An object constructed to signify the togetherness of Asean countries, called the Asean Symbol of Unity Monument, is also featured.
The other monuments are Merlion (Singapore), Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchaworamahawihan (Thailand), Tran Quoc Pagoda (Vietnam), Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar), Patuxai Monument (Laos), the Indonesian National Monument and Cambodia’s Independence Monument.