Two small islands between India and Sri Lanka have sunk into the sea primarily as a result of coral reef mining, according to experts.
The Indo-Pacific region is considered to contain some of the world's richest marine biological resources. The group's 21 islands and islets are protected as part of the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, covering an area of nearly 560 square kilometers.
According to S. Balaji, chief conservator of forests and wildlife for that region of Tamil Nadu, fishermen had indiscriminately and illegally mined invaluable coral reefs around the islets of Poomarichan and Villanguchalli for many decades.
"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," the BBC quoted Balaji, as saying.
He said that rising sea level as a result of global warming was also a factor behind the islands' submergence.
The loss of these two islands should be a "wake-up call" for all those in the entire Asia-Pacific region, said Balaji.
Deepak Samuel, marine biologist and project associate with the Energy and Environment Unit of the UN Development Programme, said that a quarter of the 2,000-plus fin fish species in Indian waters are in Gulf of Mannar.
He warned that losing the reefs might result in migration of fish populations to other regions, which would result in the loss of the gulf's biodiversity. (ANI)