SAVE BALI FROM DROWNING
WE REJECT THE RECLAMATION OF BENOA BAY
Written by: Eve Tedja (Taken from http://www.forbali.org)
“I’m just thinking of the future of Bali. Every year we have more than 25,000 students from the university. They will graduate, they will need jobs and where are they going to do that?” claims I Made Mangku Pastika, on the latest Dateline short documentary, aptly titled ‘The Battle for Bali’. This immensely popular tropical island where I have lived almost all my life is, indeed, a battlefield.
You won’t see that battle when you come here, when you stay at a luxurious villa in Seminyak and watch the sunset from a swanky beach club that populate the southern tip of the island. You won’t be experiencing the shortage of water in your five-star hotel in Nusa Dua, a daily occurence in our local houses. You will also not be experiencing the dread, the frustration that we feel at the moment of losing another piece of our home to that potent, main source of income to the Balinese: tourism.
Benoa Bay, a mangrove conservation area next to the Ngurah Rai International Airport, is under a serious threat. With the blessing of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the local government, the conservation status has been changed by a Presidential Regulation No. 51/2014. The new regulation allows the area to be “developed” and therefore, permitted the reclamation to happen. The investor, PT Tirta Wahana Bali International (TWBI), aims to reclaim 838 hectares of the area, which will convert 75% of the area into land and therefore increase the sea level by 1.6 meters. If this happens, 7.9 million cubic meters of water will be inundating the low-lying areas nearby, recreating the failed Jakarta’s Muara Angke project in Bali.
As if we need another hotel! We already have 80,000 hotel rooms and countless private villas. To top it off, 67 new hotels will be built until 2016. Hey mate, Welcome to Bali, Island of More Than A Thousand Hotels. And don’t get me started on the damaging marine ecosystem impact in the surrounding area including damaged the coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds. We can all say goodbye to diving, snorkeling or sea walking in Bali. Getting tanned on the shore of Tanjung Benoa or Sanur also could be the thing of a past, since those are the two low-lying areas that will immediately be affected.
The ignorants might be happy to one day arrive in Bali, hop on a taxi and five minutes later arrive at a floating villa on the Benoa Bay. There would be a golf course, a Disneyesque amusement park and car racing circuit. They would be pampered, cajoled and entertained by a string of those “25,000 students” that our governor mentioned in his limited capacity, at the cost of drowned houses, destroyed marine environment and countless people losing their livelihood from the ocean.
I don’t blame the government or the investors or even those red-faced Bintang T-shirt-wearing tourists. I blame us, the Balinese, for letting this happen. For selling our lands, for getting the easy way out of poverty, for thinking that tourism is the only job that we can do. We sold our ricefields and buy our rice from another island, then we complain that the government is destroying Bali by building more hotels. We continue to be silent, to passively withstand the inflation, the lack of water, the traffic or even the rising fruit prices in the market.
“We have to develop, right? We cannot not develop. So if some people don’t want Bali to develop, should we still stay as we are? Should we continue to be backward? Should we continue to be poor?” said a representative of PT TWBI. Is he correct? Are we backward, are we poor? By which standard, are we poor and backward?
You see, because I know I am not. I also know that all those students, artists, community members and activists from the Balinese Forum Against Reclamation (ForBALI) who are persistently screaming for their voices to be heard, are not backward and poor. We simply love this island. This is our home. This is all that we have, and if we don’t fight for our home, then who will?
This is an issue as old as time. Government backs the investors. Investors are against people. I have a bad feeling in my stomach, that if this fight is just being fought by us alone, there might be a chance that we will lose. You see, we don’t have a good track record of victorious battle against investors. If you have ever felt touched by Bali, if you have had a spiritual journey or met your loved one or even live here now, please show your support. If you love Bali as much as you like to check-in, eat babi guling, surf in Padang-Padang, have a family holiday, or just come here and enjoy the scenery; please spread the word. Please read and investigate. Please make this case viral.
This time, Bali needs you.
About the writer:
Eve Tedja is a writer who has had several of her work published in various travel and/or culinary magazines. Eve is glad that she ate the apple. Learn about her (mis)adventure in her tweets @evetedja
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