This Mumbai girl is offering India’s first and only diving grant to explore the marine ecosystem

Founded by Vidhi Bubna, Coral Warriors offers a unique chance for people who are passionate about climate change and want to learn about the dying coral reefs and its equation in climate change.

This Mumbai girl is offering India’s first and only diving grant to explore the marine ecosystem

Sunday February 27, 2022,

4 min Read

Coral reef

Vidhi Bubna, Founder, Coral Warriors

Twenty three-year-old Vidhi Bubna’s first diving experience turned out to be a heartbreaking one. While she expected a lot of color underwater as she had seen on Nat Geo and other travel channels, Vidhi came across all white corals, which means they are dead from being bleached.

"I was swimming in a graveyard of dead corals. It was very sad and I just started crying after coming out of the water," she tells HerStory

However, most people are unaware of the marine ecosystem and its pollution as it is rarely part of the climate change discourse.  

In fact, about 300–400 million tonnes of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge, and other industrial waste are dumped into the waters globally every year. Warming waters, pollution, ocean acidification, overfishing are also killing the coral reefs. 

And more than 80 percent of global wastewater is being discharged back into the environment without adequate treatment, according to a study conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Coral reef

Vidhi came across all white corals, which means they are dead from being bleached.

The underwater awareness

An economics graduate from Ashoka University, Vidhi did not enjoy working with numbers and turned to writing about social issues, including women’s rights, minority issues, and the LGBTQ+ community, among others.

An adventure enthusiast and a keen trekker, Vidhi went diving to explore the underwater beauty last year. Her dismay at seeing dying coral reefs led to the start of Coral Warriors, a non-profit organisation that aims to raise awareness on marine conservation and climate change, in 2021

“Nobody knows about climate change till they see it,” Vidhi says. The Mumbai-based organisation offers India’s first and only diving grant. The grant of Rs 70,000 sponsors the level one scuba diving education in any location of their choice in India such as Lakshadweep, Goa, Puducherry, and Andaman and the Nicobar Islands.

While there is no specific criteria, Vidhi says the selection process is rigorous to choose candidates who are passionate about climate change and see that they intend to engage in activism of their choice. Four candidates have been awarded the grant so far and the organisation hopes to send at least five people every year.

“After the candidates return, we expect them to work on a climate change project of their choice where they narrow down on a topic, create communities, and work to create awareness and drive action-centric projects," she explains. 

After Vidhi’s own diving experience, she has been driving awareness, especially on the Brazilian Guitarfish, a critically endangered species found in Andamans, Maldives, and Brazil. She has developed a community of public policy professionals, journalists, environmentalists, and marine biologists around the world on a WhatsApp group to discuss and brainstorm ways to conserve the species. 

“The species is being targeted by fishermen who live on coastal Brazil and we are trying to find ways to work with these fishermen to ensure we are not killing the Brazilian guitarfish, which is already an illegal trade,” she adds. 

Prior to starting Coral Warriors, Vidhi was hosting free online workshops to spread awareness about marine biodiversity and climate change, and has reached about 5,000 people through them.

Vidhi says the grant is funded by a select group of people who are part of the organisation’s board of directors. “They fund on a rolling basis and one of them is among the makers of the popular Netflix documentary Chasing Corals,” Vidhi says.

As a next step, Vidhi is planning to work on documentaries with high quality underwater images and videos, considering everybody cannot afford or have the courage to go diving to see what is happening underwater.

Throughout the journey, Vidhi did not have much to look up to and wanted to change that. After all, “It is a male-dominated space and women are not taken seriously when you are a scuba diver or in any kind of sport,” she says. 

Edited by Megha Reddy