Joy in Canggu as Protests Halt Lagoon Development

BERAWA BEACH, Canggu ~ Residents of Canggu were celebrating on Thursday after days of fresh protests over a controversial villa development on a sacred lagoon resulted in an order from the regent of Badung calling a permanent halt to the contested project in North Kuta.

By William J. Furney
Managing Editor
The Bali Times

Thousands of angry locals took to Berawa Beach on Tuesday and Wednesday to rally against the development as construction work began anew.

In recent weeks, the developer, PT Bali Unicorn Corporation, which owns the beachfront Discovery Mall down the coast in Kuta, had begun construction at the site, filling in the lagoon with rocks to prepare a foundation for the years-stalled project.

Local residents, who had previously protested the development, were enraged work had again started at the lagoon, considered a holy site among the majority Hindu population.

Filling in the lagoon will also lead to large-scale environmental problems in the area, as rivers that now run into it will become blocked during the rainy season, causing widespread flooding, according to the residents.

“We want the development of this area to stop, but we want it to happen in a peaceful way,” one protester told The Bali Times on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Local government officials visiting the site earlier in the week said the level of public outcry over the development meant the project had to be halted.

Speaking in front of the crowds of protesters, lawmaker I Wayan Sutena called for the development to be scrapped altogether.

“… we ask that this project be permanently stopped,” he said.

On Wednesday Badung Regent AA Gde Agung visited the site and officially declared a postponement of further construction work.

“After being studied by me and seeing the development, the government had decided that this project at the lagoon must be stopped.

“An official order halting the project in every aspect takes effect today (Wednesday),” the regent told residents demonstrating at the lagoon.

He said the developer had to return the lagoon to its previous condition, free from piles of sand and rocks and dug-up areas.

“The lagoon has to be returned to the way it was before (development began),” he said.

This regent also said that the developer did not have the necessary licenses to proceed with the development.

“PT Bali Unicorn’s permits were not complete, as there were some conditions that were not met,” he said, without elaborating.

Bali Police chief Paulus Purwoko would ensure that the government’s decision was upheld and that no further work would go ahead at the lagoon, his spokesman Antionious Reniban said. Police had been milling about the site during the week for fear frayed tempers might lead to outbursts of violence. The protests were peaceful, however.

Local resident Komang Kus said he was elated at the outcome.

“This is a great decision for the people of our area, and the environment. This is what we wanted, and we are happy. It was an illegal project anyway,” he told The Times on Thursday.

Expatriates living in the area also turned out to support the protests. One, Thierry Robinet, a documentary filmmaker from France who has been living in Bali for 30 years, pointed to the lagoon’s holy significance.

“This is a sacred place; it’s forbidden to build on. We’re prepared to fight to keep the area from being developed. We will not allow our site to be built on,” Robinet, who is married to a Balinese woman, told The Times.

Such was the level of rage against the project, especially as the lagoon’s temple might be destroyed during the construction phase, that residents said they were “insulted” by the plan and were “prepared to do anything” to stop it from going ahead.

According to the law, the developer not only required permits from the government to proceed, but also permission from the many banjars, or communities, dotted around the rural area – but none had consented, despite repeated requests from the company during meetings between the people and its representatives.

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