Science is giving the coral reef in Pemuteran, north Bali, a jolt. But don’t worry, it’s low-voltage direct current meant to bolster growth and reverse decades of destruction caused by reef bombing, cyanide fishing and global warming.

“Pemuteran right now is a popular scuba diving destination because its marvelous array of corals have created a haven for the ocean’s most colorful fish, says Bramantyo Samodra Sier, head of marketing and promotions at Divemag Indonesia, the country’s most popular diving magazine. “But in the past it has been devastated by the bombing or cyanide fishing methods used by the many fishermen attracted to Pemuteran’s tranquil waters. Ruining the corals puts the whole underwater ecosystem at risk and that’s why Divemag Indonesia is so concerned about saving the corals.

Invented by marine scientists, Biorock is a process that uses low-voltage direct current electricity to grow solid limestone rock structures in the sea and accelerate the growth of corals.

Biorock projects can be found all over the world, including in the Pacific, Caribbean and Indian oceans, but the Biorock project in Pemuteran, installed in June 2000 and stretching 300 meters situated in an area of two hectares, is the largest Biorock center in the world.

But being the world’s biggest Biorock project isn’t cheap.

Luckily, ANZ Bank pitched in and helped give Pemuteran’s Biorock a financial boost.

Each steel structure costs Rp 5 million ($519) and ANZ’s corporate social responsibility program has donated four structures.

“It’s great to see companies willing to use their corporate social responsibility program to focus on Biorock, said Tom Goreau, the Biorock co-founder, who was in Pemuteran on the day the ANZ-sponsored structures were installed. “With Biorock, the corals succeed to grow up to 50 times faster and can recover from physical damage.

Goreau, who also serves as president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, is now focused on training local people about Biorock to ensure the structures’ sustainability.

“Local people need proper detailed training so they can keep developing and maintaining the program. It’s the key to keep the Biorock project successful, he said. “That’s the reason why we often have workshops and the next one is going to be from Nov. 12 to 18.

Komang Astika, operational manager of the Biorock center, said word of the structures is spreading, and tourists are traveling to north Bali to see if electricity can really grow coral reefs.

“Biorock is attracting tourists from all around the world, Komang said. “Snorkeling and diving have been two of the most popular activities for tourists coming to Pemuteran. There are at least 50 tourists who come to Pemuteran every week just to see the Biorock.

2011 JakartaGlobe