Underwater theme park threatens pristine marine ecosystem

Conservationists are alarmed at Nickelodeon’s plans to build an underwater resort and theme part on Palawan island in the Philippines, warning it would destroy the area’s pristine marine ecosystem.

American children’s television network Nickelodeon chose the Filipino island of Palawan because it “is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world today,” said Ron Johnson, an executive vice president with Viacom International Media Networks, owner of Nickelodeon, in a statement emailed to AFP on Tuesday.

Its plans call for a 400-hectare undersea development that would showcase the area’s marine life and give fans a chance to “interact with the brand and the iconic characters they love,” said Gerald Raines, senior vice president at Viacom, in a statement. SpongeBob SquarePants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Dora the Explorer are some of Nickelodeon characters that will be featured at the undersea attraction.

According to Viacom, the resort is expected to open in 2020 and will feature restaurants and lounges six metres below sea level with views of the world beneath the ocean. It will also be spread above ground amid a cluster of 16 white sand islands, said Viacom.

“With a distance of 5 to 20 minutes apart by speedboat, visitors can expect a multi-island experience,” wrote Viacom, “that includes island hopping, hidden lagoons, hot springs, an animal reserve and world-class diving amidst shipwrecks.”

The project would also “advocate ocean protection”, conserve coral reefs and create Asia’s largest marine sanctuary for dolphins, sea cows, sea horses, turtles and whale sharks.

But environmentalists and conservationists aren’t taking the bait.

“It’s sad and alarming because a theme park that big will not promote environmental protection by building those structures,” Vince Cinches of Greenpeace Southeast Asia told AFP.

“Why build a viewing deck when you have the whole paradise to enjoy?”

His concerns are echoed by Palawan-based environmental activist Grizelda Mayo-Anda.

“I am wary because we have had problems already with resorts built in mangrove areas,” Mayo-Anda, executive director of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, told AFP.

“I’m really concerned because sometimes, with all due respect to the local government unit, we get captivated by new projects and we do not judiciously study the impact.”

As AFP reported, Palawan is home to two UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, a subterranean river and the Tubbataha coral reefs.

The island’s pristine coastlines and forests are among the oldest and most diverse in Southeast Asia.


Image credit: John Griffiths, flickr/Creative Commons

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