Kuta Gets $38m Facelift


KUTA ~ Once a somnolent fishing village, Kuta has morphed over the past half-century into a global tourism Mecca, a pulsating, 24-hour international playground that is arguably Bali’s best-known locale.

But its famed beach has over the decades been reduced to a shadow of what it was in years gone by, almost entirely due to natural erosion by the inspiring waves that drew those early, pioneering tourists.

Now, thanks to Japanese funding to the tune of US$38 million, Kuta Beach is set to retain its crowing glory, as the authorities work on a plan to restore the beach’s sanded area and put in place barriers to prevent further erosion.

By William J. Furney
Managing Editor
The Bali Times
With staff reporter Rian Dewanto

It’s the final chapter in a four-part restoration story that began with the iconic Tanah Lot in Tabanan in 1999 and extended to Sanur, Nusa Dua and Benoa Harbor. The total cost for the entire Bali Beach Conservation Project is $78.2 million, all courtesy of a loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, one of Indonesia’s foremost lenders.

The Kuta Beach project includes restoration of the beach area from in front of the Discovery Shopping Mall to near the airport, where erosion over the years has been strongest and has all but eaten away at the beach. Almost half a million cubic meters of sand will be used to reclaim the beach, according to project data obtained by The Bali Times.

Meanwhile, submerged breakwater units will be placed in front of the beach to prevent subsequent erosion once the beach is restored; and 1,227 meters of revetment – structures to absorb the energy of waves – will be constructed, along with other measures such as drainage and a “sand stopper” to percent the slippage or movement of sand particles. As in Sanur and other restored areas, a walkway (as pictured) is to be constructed from Kuta Beach northwards to Petitenget Beach – a stretch of 7.53 kilometers.

Public facilities such as toilets, parking lots, information centers and lifeguard posts are also getting an overhaul as part of the plan now underway.

Work on the Kuta plan is ahead of schedule and is slated for completion by the end of next year, project manager I Putu Sudiana of the Bali office of the Ministry of Public Works told The Times.

“After one year of work, we have completed eight percent of the development. Currently we are building revetments and transferring the sand onto the beach. Progress will speed up when this is finished, but sometimes we have to stop working due to weather problems and religious holidays such as Nyepi,” he said.

The entire project was initiated in the 1970s, said Sudiana, when officials noticed that erosion was damaging the island’s chief tourism assets: its beaches.

“The concept of this project is conservation. We are aiming to restore the beaches to their original condition. Based on numerous studies conducted since the 1970s, we learned that Kuta Beach (alone) suffers from erosion of two meters a year – due to human activity as well as nature itself,” he said.

“It’s a very long process. We had to come up with a plan that would not affect the aesthetics of the places or the people – after all, Bali is considered an international asset.”

Drawing up the Kuta part of the plan was not without controversy, however, as objections were lodged by local communities to the proposed developments. In 2003, after taking locals’ opinions into account, a reworked plan was finally accepted.

Although construction is currently underway, some beachfront properties are still objecting – to the walkway passing in front of their hotels and clubs – said Sudiana, adding that the government was holding talks with such parties.

“With this development, we expect there to be a lot of good knock-on effects – the environment will be preserved, more investors will want to invest in Kuta and that will, in turn, bring in more tourists and increase the area’s gross income,” he said.

Sudiana said he felt the authorities would be able to overcome any lingering objections to the project because based on the results of earlier developments in Sanur and elsewhere, “People are happy with the result, especially tourists.”

As the work gets underway in Kuta, there may be environmental problems caused by ships transporting sand leaking oil into the water, and also creating noise pollution, Sudiana said.

“That’s why we have environmental specialists from Bali’s Environment Department observing the start of the work.

“After the project is finished, the government will continue to look after the beach by filling it with more sand.”

Some businesses alongside the beach claim the construction of the walkway will lessen the exclusivity of places like upmarket Seminyak.

“Building a walkway through the area will simply draw more people, sellers and more garbage,” Nyoman Slamet, human resources manager of a group encompassing Double Six Club, Gado-Gado Restaurant, Bacio Lounge and Ku De Ta told The Times.

“Basically we intend to keep the natural attraction of the beach,” added Slamet.

He said his company had been in discussions with the government regarding the development, but that nothing had been decided.

“We’ve had many discussions, but we haven’t settled on any agreement. To the regent of Badung, we proposed our own method of beach protection,” he said, without elaborating.

At least one tourist agreed with the beach project, however.

Marc Fournier, an accountant from Switzerland and visiting Bali for three weeks, told The Times: “I think it’s good for business. It will bring more people to the beach.”

In Sanur, Ari Santi, a trader of art, agreed.

“Before there was the paving, the road was narrower. There was barely enough space for people to sit and lie down. Also, here the sand was black. Now the area is much nicer,” she said.

Comments: editor@thebalitimes.com

The Bali Times reported on this is October 12, 2006 edition:
Govt Gets Funds to Repair Kuta Beach

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