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Tokyo Cement Reefballs giving new life to Sri Lanka’s endangered coral

Janaka Perera, General Manager, Tokyo Super Mix; Dr. M.G.M.U Ismail,  Innovations Director, Tokyo Cement Group; Mouly Gunaratne,  Engineering Consultant and Dean of AYS Gnanam Construction  Training Academy; Salinda Kandapola,  Agricultural Director, Tokyo Cement Group.
Janaka Perera, General Manager, Tokyo Super Mix; Dr. M.G.M.U Ismail,
 Innovations Director, Tokyo Cement Group; Mouly Gunaratne,
Engineering Consultant and Dean of AYS Gnanam Construction
 Training Academy; Salinda Kandapola,
 Agricultural Director, Tokyo Cement Group.
SUPERMIX teams from the Tokyo Cement Groups’ ready-mix concrete plants across
the island congregated on the coast of Passikudah, to throw a lifeline for Sri
Lanka’s highly threatened marine life. 
Out of the 203 known species of hard coral in Sri Lanka, 123 species are
endemic to Passikudah. However, as much as 60% of the coral reef cover in the
area has been damaged due to destructive fishing practices, coral harvesting
and generations of carelessness and misinformation.
In response, Tokyo Cement’s
Reefballs have helped breathe new life into over 60 species of coral in Passikudah
since their rehabilitation efforts were initiated towards end 2012. In an
effort at island-wide collaboration, the TOKYO SUPERMIX staff, from the
nation’s largest network of readymix concrete batching plants, assembled in the
waters of Passikudah bay from Mahiyangana, Jaffna, Anuradhapura, Kandy,
Kadawatha, Negombo, Biyagama, Trincomalee, Peliyagoda and Elpitya, to deploy
120 reefballs.

Danushka Mahanama, Project Coordinator, WRCT; Samitha Harishchandra, Founder and President WRCT; Praveen Gnanam , Special Projects Coordinator, Tokyo Cement Group
Danushka Mahanama, Project Coordinator, WRCT;
 Samitha Harishchandra, Founder and President WRCT;
Praveen Gnanam , Special Projects
 Coordinator, Tokyo Cement Group
ultimate objective is to build a protective reef barrier around the island.
This will help safeguard the country from natural disasters, enhance our
national marine resources and contribute significantly to tourism,” said Mr
Praveen Gnanam special projects cooridnator at Tokyo Cement.
Converting cement waste into marine habitat
The Tokyo
Cement R&D unit, in collaboration with the Wildlife Research and
Conservation Trust (WRCT), has designed, built and implemented a unique reef
rehabilitation technique, called Tokyo Cement Reefballs. As part of the
company’s environmentally friendly manufacturing process, Tokyo Cement has
developed many different ways of reusing and recycling cement waste. The reef
rehabilitation project is one such initiative, where waste concrete previously
discarded, is being recycled to yield multiple environmental and social
benefits. Tokyo Cement has been partnering the WRCT on this one-of-a-kind
marine conservation project, with support from volunteers, UNDP, the Wildlife
Department, the Coast Conservation Department, marine biologists from the
University of Peredinya and local fishing communities.
“This is a
unique project because it isn’t a one-off; it is long-term commitment to the
rehabilitation of Sri Lanka’s reefs, in addition to the extent of technological
developments and testing that has gone into designing these reefballls. The Tokyo
Cement Reefballs have been specifically designed for different conditions, such
as ocean depths and tidal conditions; resulting in more effective conservation
efforts,” explained Dr Ismail, Innovation Director at Tokyo Cement.
Mihidum Tharanga, Quality Controller, Biyagama; Duminda Liyanage, Finance Manager; Janaka Perera, General Manager, Tokyo Super Mix; Kushantha Perera, Plant Manager, Tokyo Super Mix, Elpitiya
Mihidum Tharanga, Quality Controller,
 Duminda Liyanage, Finance Manager; Janaka Perera, 
General Manager,
Tokyo Super Mix; Kushantha Perera, 
Plant Manager, Tokyo Super Mix, Elpitiya
Cement designs and manufactures the reefballs at their many TOKYO SUPERMIX
ready-mix concrete batching plants, delivers them to the site and helps WRCT
position the reefballs in the designated conservation zones in Passikudah bay,
all at its own cost. The WRCT grows coral in a nursery located in shallower
waters, and those live coral sprouts (or nubbins) are carefully planted on the
reefballs before being transferred to deeper waters.
The corals
planted on the Tokyo Cement Reefballs grow at an exceptional pace of as much as
20-22 inches every 3 months.  This year
Tokyo Cement plans to deploy as many as 675-1,200 reefballs along the coast of
Passikudah, that will cover an area of between 756 – 1512 m2
objective is to restore the depleted coral cover in the coast of Passikudah and
thereby foster marine life. The return of the corals could also mitigate
national disasters by acting as a natural shield against tides and tsunamis, as
well as preventing soil erosion. Other benefits include contributing towards
tourism, as flush coral reefs are a strong tourist attraction, and can
potentially enhance local economies. As coral reefs allow marine ecosystems to
flourish; enhancing fish population growth through protected habitats, a
rehabilitated reef is expected to increase fish yields and incomes for fishing
Cement’s partners worked directly with coastal communities in implementing the
reef rehabilitation programmes. As part of the project, fishing communities
were given lifesaving and first aid classes by the Red Cross, and experts from
the WRCT educated the communities about livelihood benefits that can be derived
by preserving corals and fish habitats. The awareness programmes have helped
discourage dynamite fishing, and anchoring in reefs, that were major causes of
coral destruction. Today, communities in Passikudah are actually supporting
coral rehabilitation by helping to plant coral and by policing the waters,
preventing outsiders from conducting destructive fishing methods.
Rolling out more Tokyo Cement Reefballs
Cement is sponsoring a 2 year study to be conducted by a Doctoral Student from
the University of Peradeniya to measure and record the growth rates and species
diversity of corals, whilst conducting intensive fish surveys in the
rehabilitation zones. This will help develop guidelines for the evaluation and
implementation of similar rehabilitation projects across the island.
 The company has commissioned the WRCT to
identify 2-3 new zones around the island in which the severity of coral
degradation can best be turned around, through the implementation of the Tokyo
Cement Reefballs, in the hopes of conducting one of the largest recorded
coastal rehabilitation projects in the country. 
The three decade old company has incorporated the reef rehabilitation
project into its business operations and hopes to build and propagate a healthy
marine ecosystem along Sri Lanka’s coast over the next 10 years.  

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