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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 16:12 GMT
Indonesia 'finds' 500 islands
Diving off the island of Sipadan
Islands and coral reefs are valuable for tourism

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, has discovered that it has 584 more islands than previously thought.

New satellite pictures measured all land areas of over 30 square metres and found the total number of islands inside the country's borders was 18,108.

The 'discovery' was particularly welcome because Indonesia lost two of its' islands to Malaysia after an International Court of Justice ruling in December 2002.

However Rachel Harvey, the BBC's Jakarta correspondent, points out that because of the changing tides, islands which are there in the morning, could have 'disappeared' by the afternoon.

Although only about 6,000 of Indonesia's islands are inhabited and most of the new islands were merely rocky outcrops, the coral reefs around them are very valuable.

"Indonesia is slowly waking up to the fact that it has a great resources on its hands in terms of coral reefs, " our correspondent says.

Coral reefs benefit not only the fishing industry, but also the tourist trade.

Indonesia is particularly keen to attract foreign tourists following the impact of the Bali bombing.

But in order to persuade tourists to come scuba-diving, coral reefs must be protected, and that will involve a serious financial commitment from a government already short of funds.





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