Timorese President stops project, saves dive site!

On the 12th of May, 2010, Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta stood in front of excavating equipment, forcing the stop of a project that was sure to destroy one of Timor’s top dive sites, called Tasi Tolu.

Please read the President’s office press release below and view a gallery of underwater images from Timor-Leste.


PR Ramos-Horta calls for a halt on an environmentally destructive public works project
Dili, May 12th (PPR) – President of Timor-Leste and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr. José Ramos-Horta, made a site inspection to a public works project in the Taci Tolu area of the capital of Timor-Leste, Dili, yesterday. The site in question will bring much needed assistance to the local population in water management, especially during the wet season. This year’s late and heavy wet season, which has caused considerable damage to public property, is a prime example of the reasons why rain management across the country is of vital importance.

However this particular project will destroy one of Asia’s best scuba diving sites if it is allowed to go ahead. Currently excess water collected by the project will be diverted directly into the ocean. What makes this site so important is the rarity of what is alive beneath the waves. Many rare and endangered species, such as the dugong, or “sea cow” and the incredibly rare “mimic octopus” are found in this bay, which has attracted scuba enthusiasts from across the globe to visit Timor-Leste.

Direct revenue injected into the local economy by scuba divers visiting this site are estimated to be in excess of USD$ 200,000 per year. The expected fresh water and the associated pollution washed out to sea through the completion of this project will destroy this site completely and forever.

H.E. the President of Timor-Leste personally visited the site and has attempted to halt the public works progress until a satisfactory solution has been decided.

“It is incredible that we, as a nation, could destroy such an important site, which is only a short drive from the Government Palace, out of complacency and lack of planning; the government must protect our natural resources for the future generations – we must be seen as proactive, diligent and sensitive to sites which we may not even understand the value of now”, he said.The President went on to say: “It is imperative that the relevant bodies in government come together and find the correct solution for this challenge. Why would we destroy an area that will provide substantial income to our economy?”

The site concerned has also been identified as a location to be used in the First International Dive Photo Contest of Timor-Leste in October this year. The event will run from the 9th till the 15th of October, 2010 and is a unique 4 day photography competition, which has a lucrative prize pool of USD$ 30,000.

Professional scuba divers and photographers from around the world are being invited to participate by President Ramos-Horta. The objectives of this initiative include showcasing Timor-Leste’s tremendous scuba diving potential and to promote its’ marine-based tourism to the region and beyond. The contest will also serve as a mechanism to provide education on the environment, bio diversity and many marine based opportunities that the pristine waters of Timor can offer the people of Timor-Leste.

For further information contact:
Media Officer for President of the Republic Mr. Joel Pereira on +6707230160
The Dive Photo Contest Director, Sean Borrell on +670 7382208 / borrellsean@hotmail.com
Visit the Dive Photo Contest Website at www.underwatertimorleste.com

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