DUBAI // Schoolchildren have found a new use for the emirate's construction waste - encouraging life beneath the sea.
Twenty pupils at Gems World Academy in Dubai built 40 artificial reefs from construction waste this year with the support of Tawasul, a diving and education charity.
Two of those reefs were sunk on the outer marina wall of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel yesterday morning by a group of seven enthusiastic young divers.
The initiative was part of the school's Week Without Walls programme, in which children were taught to scuba dive and ways to save endangered species.
"They had an opportunity to understand what was happening in the water and take action to save the ecosystem," said Antonio Roti, a teacher at the academy.
The idea to build artificial reefs was prompted by figures showing about 30,000 tonnes of construction waste was produced daily in Dubai, said Ernst Van Der Poll, the founder of Tawasul.
"The children worked with a marine biologist and Angus Jackson, the senior engineer with the Eco Coast organisation, to recycle some of that building material," Mr Van Der Poll said. "Through this we wanted to cultivate an environmental awareness and interest among the youth in preserving the aquatic life and its resources."
The children created the reefs out of PVC pipes, bricks and plastic netting, designing them to resemble a natural habitat.
Salim al Harthy, 16, a student at the academy, said the project had taught him about species such as hammour and bluefin tuna, which were endangered.
"We are trying to give the fish a home and prevent endangered species like hammour from dying because of all the habitat destruction caused by the coastal development," Salim said.
Guided by Guang Chao Zhu, an instructor with the Pavilion Dive Centre, the children sank their structures alongside other artificial reefs built by the hotel.
"When we designate a place to sink them, we need to ensure it does not disturb the existing environment in any way," Mr Zhu said.
He said the area would receive a lot of sunlight and attract fish.
Concrete blocks were put in place first, then the reefs were tied to the blocks to ensure they were not destroyed by currents or ships, he said.
The children will frequently return to the site to carry out surveys and fish counts to monitor the impact of their creations.
"We used hard and soft surfaces and pipes of different sizes so that all sorts of fish could use it," said Tom Lovello, a Grade 10 student.
Vaughn O'Meara, 14, from the Wellington International School, said this was a small step in helping to save the environment.
"If every school makes two such reefs, we could be saving more species," Vaughn said.