In Uluwatu, Surprising Support for Villas

By Marcus Ross
The Bali Times

ULUWATU, Bali ~ Uluwatu residents are in favor of development within a sacred 5-kilometer radius of Uluwatu Temple despite recent raucous protests from the temple’s priests and residents in the area.

Since a backlash against illegal building in the area surrounding the stunning temple location that saw numerous villas forcibly closed down in recent months, many local people say they are now doubtful over contentious zoning laws.

Head of Suluvin district Nyoman Karmun believes the rule is unreasonable for the local people and hopes governor-elect I Made Mangku Pastika will take action to resolve the issue.

“All people pay a large tax for the land so they should be able to make money from it. They are not going to make enough money growing potatoes, are they?” he told The Bali Times.

“I hope our new governor will clean up the problem and solve the dispute.”

However, many people from the Hindu Religious Council and temple figures, including priest Jro Mangku Gede Ricen, fear that rampant development will ruin the temple’s silent and tranquil atmosphere that has been a key characteristic of the area for centuries and draws tens of thousands of tourists each year.

Made Salib, a local resident who works at the temple, is fearful that many local residents are only looking at short-term goals and that the rapid rate of development around many parts of Bali should act as a warning to the people of the Suluvin district to exercise caution when selling and leasing their land to large-scale developers.

“What we are seeing here is not good; this temple is a very holy place” he said.

According to religious guidelines provided by the council, only simple resting houses for pilgrims can be built within 1 kilometer of temples and villas may be built within 1 to 3 kilometers around them. Houses can be built within a radius of 3 to 5 kilometers and hotels may only be built further than 5 kilometers.

This is the reason for the closure of a number of villas, officials say, among them Villa Suluban and Puri Uluwatu Villas.

However, a proposal for a 20-room hotel within 500 meters from the temple was approved as recently as June 20 this year, The Times has learned.

According to Karmun, who owns a hotel close to Villa Suluban, within a kilometer from the temple, this is “unsocial politics” and the religious guidelines were not being used in an appropriate manner.

“Nobody ever closed down our hotel,” he said.

“We are waiting on 2009 legislation. I hope our new governor will clean up the problem and solve the dispute.”

Uluwatu is popular among many tourists not only because of its spectacular cliff-top views of the ocean, but is also home to a world-class surf break with the Rip Curl world title being held there this week. Land around the Uluwatu temple is currently valued between Rp100-150 million (US$10,900-$16,450) per are.

On May 8, around 150 demonstrators marched on the Bandung House of Representatives demanding changes be made to the zoning rules. Many of the demonstrators were property owners with land within the 5-kilometer radius and insisted “purity” in Bali was not a mere matter of distance.

This not the first instance of controversy surrounding property development near Hindu holy sites: In June 1995, demonstrations against the development of a luxury Bali Nirvana resort close to the sacred Tanah Lot temple led to military intervention. It also led to the Hindu Religious Council issuing the zoning rules.

Built on a cliff face approximately 70 meters above the sea, Uluwatu is one of six major temples in Bali, collectively known as the Pura Sad Kahyangan. Although there is debate as to when it was built, Uluwatu Temple has played an integral part in the lives of Balinese Hindus.

Some claim it was built in the 9th century by Empu Kuturan, who was the primary architect of the Balinese social structure during the rule of Markara. However, it has also been claimed that it was built in the 16th century by the East Javanese priest Sakti Wau Rauh, who was cremated there.

According to Fefke Pascal from Holland, the development of hotels and villas surrounding Uluwatu Temple would have a negative impact on the area.

“This is magical place, but I can see why the locals would want to sell the land around the temple. There would be a lot of money for them. I hope they can preserve the land but I suppose money always does have the last word,” he told The Times.

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