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Coral mining cause of island disappearances

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, May 13 (UPI) -- Coral reef mining has caused two small islands in South Asia's first marine biosphere reserve to sink into the sea, scientists say.

The islets of Poomarichan and Villanguchalli were located in a group in the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka, in an area considered to contain some of the world's richest marine biological resources, the BBC reported Friday.

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The 21 islands and islets, covering an area of 216 square miles, are protected as part of the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park.

Indiscriminate and illegal mining of invaluable coral reefs by local fishermen went on for many decades, S. Balaji, chief conservator of forests and wildlife for Sri Lanka's Tamil Nadu state, said.

Corals, rich in calcium carbonate, were mined for use as a binding material in the construction industry.

"The absence of any regulations prior to 2002 led to illegal mining of the coral reefs, which came to an end when environmental protection laws were enacted," he said.

Though these islets were only 10-15 feet above sea level, their submergence is a warning about the danger many more islands face in the long run, Balaji said.

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