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TAMIL NADU, India -- Scuba diving is much more than an adventure water sport. Realizing this, a university is offering, for the first time in India, a certificate course in scuba diving for marine biologists and researchers to study the impact of global warming on marine life.
The 15-day course offered by the Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute (SDMRI), Tuticorin, affiliated to the Manonmaniam Sundaranar University in Tamil Nadu, will focus on marine biodiversity assessment, underwater photography and monitoring of coral reefs and sea grass.
As of now, Indian marine researchers have to go to private scuba diving centres here or abroad to learn the diving skills, which is a must for those studying sea biodiversity.
The institute will soon be applying for recognition from Australia-based Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) to run level one and level two courses in scuba diving.
"Climate change and pollution have adversely affected the coastal environment in India and to know its impact and carry out restoration work, it is really important that marine biologists know scuba diving for it helps in exploring the underwater ecosystem," SDMRI director J.K. Patterson Edward told sources.
According to Edward, there are private institutes in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep and Goa that offer commercial courses, but this is the first time an academic course is being launched in the country.
The SDMRI will offer open water (level one) and advanced open water (second level) courses in scuba diving as of now. The open water course will cost Rs.12,000 compared to Rs.18,000 being charged by private companies giving scuba diving training.
For the advanced open water course the applicant needs to have cleared the first level and the cost will be around Rs.10,000.
Professional scuba diving training requires an initial investment of Rs.3-4 million and infrastructure like diving equipment, boats, trained instructors, underwater digital camera, underwater video camera and GPS.
Explaining about the other job opportunities being offered in the field, Edward said: "Applicants can go for jobs in government sector, shipping industry, fisheries sector, fire department, coast guard and professional trainers."
The SDMRI, with the support of Ministry of Environment and Forests, has been carrying out coral reef restoration and monitoring work in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay after the 2004 tsunami.
According to scientists, global warming has affected the Gulf Of Mannar, leading to bleaching of corals, affecting fish population and accentuating coastal erosion.
The Gulf of Mannar is the first Marine Biosphere Reserve established in India and covers an area of about 10,500 sq. km. It includes 21 coral islands, each with its unique characteristics, surrounded by coral reefs with rich fauna and floral diversity. Coral reefs are the most diverse, fertile but fragile ecosystems in the world.
For more information, see the Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute's web site.