How can you help fish and give old buses a new life at the same time?

In Sri Lanka, an island country in the Indian Ocean, government agencies have a plan to do just that. The Sri Lankan Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and its partners are sinking old buses in the ocean. They hope these sunken buses will become artificial reefs and provide important habitat for fish.

What is an artificial reef?

An artificial reef is a man-made structure that provides a surface for marine life to grow on. Sometimes, artificial reefs form on shipwrecks – corals establish and provide habitat for fishes and other marine organisms. Other times, structures like the buses in Sri Lanka are sunk on purpose to create new habitat.

Over time, sunken ships turn into artificial reefs supporting marine life, such as this one, known as the Battery Barge, off Colombo on Sri Lanka’s western coast. Banner image courtesy of Rasika Muthucumarana.

What happens to the buses?

After a while, early signs of life appear on the sunken buses, including algae, barnacles, and mollusks. It is then hoped that fast-growing corals will establish. The ultimate goal is for fish to use the artificial reefs as breeding sites.

A decommissioned bus being sunk off Sri Lanka by the Navy, courtesy of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources also plans to sink old boats and other objects, giving new purpose to old things. The project will be followed over time – this is called monitoring – to see if it is successful. The initial signs are promising.

“The results are encouraging as the buses we dumped at the first site have already attracted a lot of fish,” Susantha Kahawatta, director-general of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, told Mongabay.

Another reported benefit of sinking the buses is to remove them from junkyards, where they can take on rainwater and become breeding sites for disease-carrying mosquitos. 

In a separate project, the Sri Lankan Navy has created underwater art galleries to attract fish and provide sites for underwater tourists.

A recently opened underwater “gallery” in southern Sri Lanka features statues and sunken structures to serve as fish breeding sites and diving attractions. Image courtesy of the Sri Lanka Navy.

Modified from an original article on

Take action! Repurpose something:

Using something old in a new way or giving something a new purpose is called repurposing.

Do you have anything in your classroom or at home that you can repurpose and give a new life to?

Some ideas:

  • turn an old rain boot (gumboot) into a flower pot
  • create an artwork out of old buttons, spoons, or other objects
  • use old drawings or paintings as wrapping paper
What else can you think of?