Rehabilitating coral reefs with PVC piping

  Cultivating a coral branch by using a pipe Click to enlarge

How can PVC pipes contribute to the ongoing regeneration of beautiful coral reefs in exotic locations such as Thailand? It seems like an unlikely idea, yet seeing the positive effect of our long-term coral regeneration project for local Thai communities shows me that sometimes the simplest ideas are the best ones. 

Faced by years of misuse, a number of coral reefs in Thailand have been damaged. Harmful fishing techniques, silting from soil disturbances, and changing sea temperatures have all contributed to harming the delicate marine ecosystem and affecting coral regeneration.

But it’s not just the marine ecosystem that’s suffering. Local communities, who previously benefited from the bounty of the reef in terms of fisheries and tourism, have also seen a decline in their businesses due to the damage of the reef.

A healthy coral reef vs broken corals
A healthy coral reef vs. broken corals

With coral’s slow growth rate, it was clear that innovative long-term action needed to be taken if we wanted to prevent further destruction to the reef. With this in mind, a team of researchers from Plutaluang Wittaya Schooland Rambhai Barni Rajabhat Universitywere inspired to take action and find viable ways to cultivate new coral to rehabilitate Thai seas.

Coral nurseries

By grafting coral onto a frame it can be grown in a “nursery” underwater for 4-5 years before it is large enough to be put onto a natural substrate such as rock, where it can live and grow – regenerating the ocean. 

How to cultivate coral by using PVC pipes

  Coral farm Click to enlarge

After assessing many different possible materials to use for the frame, the researchers found that PVC pipes were the best choice. Not only does the coral perform well, propagating faster in the pipe than in nature, but PVC pipes have also proven to be stable materials which can coexist with marine creatures underwater.

These efforts immediately came to our attention. Not only do our interests in sustainable development align perfectly with this project, but with our large output of PVC we were in a position to help this idea meet its full potential.

So in 2003, we made a long-term commitment to cultivate 10,000 branches of coral for planting in five targeted areas within five years by agreeing to supply the necessary pipes.

The project was such a success that we initiated a second phase in 2007 to commemorate the 80th birthday anniversary of His Majesty the King of Thailand. Supported by Vinythai PLC., a joint-venture between Solvay and PTT Global Chemical PCL., and 5 communities in targeted areas, the project was a collaboration with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, Rambhai Barni Rajabhat University, Royal Thai Navy, and Marine Science Activities and Conservation Foundation Supported by Vinythai PLC.

We expanded the project to 80,000 branches of coral, and strengthened our support organization by forming the Vinythai Coral Cultivation Project.
"We are so proud of being part of marine and coastal conservation based on research and development, and this is a great opportunity to share knowledge and raise youth and public awareness in marine and coastal resources protection."
Prasan Sangpaiboon
researcher and chairman of Marine Science Activities 
and Conservation Foundation Supported by Vinythai PLC

Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn cultivated the first coral branch
Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium cultivated coral assisted by Mr. Sompot Cheeranorawanich, Vice President Corporate Affairs and Communications of Vinythai

"So far more than 65,000 branches have been cultivated and are growing well"

Vinythai has supported this project for 10 years so far and each year we provide around 500 coral nurseries made of PVC pipes. When the coral are put back in nature, all PVC nurseries are brought in from the sea for cleaning and reused for the next cultivation. 

Coral farm in the sea 

Rolling benefits

What inspires me the most from this project is that the five-targeted areas have now become borderless classrooms where children, scholars, and the public alike can learn about marine eco-systems and how to revive the reefs by cultivating coral with PVC pipes. 

Vinythai staff participated in a coral cultivation activity
Staffs from Vinythai, Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Stock Exchange of Thailand participated in a coral cultivation activity
Last year, 15,000 visitors joined the coral cultivation activities as the project continues to raise nature conservation consciousness in ways that will have rolling benefits for the planet for generations to come.

"I really appreciate this project because it has brought many tourists to visit our community. This has provided the enhancement of job opportunity and increasing income to locals." – Prachuab Tongkasem, Samaesan community's opinion leader

August 7, 2014