New Bid to Protect Sacred Lakes from Developers

DENPASAR ~ A steady stream of potential investors looking at prospects around sacred Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan in the scenic and cool central highlands near Bedugul is raising the ire of local people.

And the growing community disquiet over development proposals was aired at a meeting on Tuesday between dozens of Buyan and Tamblingan residents and provincial legislators in Denpasar.

They called on the legislative group Forum Peduli Buyan DPRD Bali to deny investors access to the area.

Chairman of DPRD Bali Ida Bagus Putu Wesnawa said after the meeting: “I reject development investment around the lakes because the area is sacred.”

He said he had rejected investment from the beginning because they would result in desecration of Hindu holy areas. Such places offered entertainment that resulted in drunkenness, drug taking and casual sex.

Wesnawa was referring to an application by an investor, PT Anantara, to build a floating stage on Lake Buyan. He said it now appeared there were further plans for building in the area by another company, PT Bali Nusa Abadi, which had received approval in principle from Buleleng Regent AA Puspayoga Putu Bagiada. The proposal had now gone to Governor I Made Mangku Pastika.

Chairman Wesnawa questioned the governor’s commitment to protect the natural resources and environment of the lakes area.

Further environment concern has been voiced over development in the Dasong Forest area, a source of pure water.

Wesnawa, citing Mahatma Gandhi (who once said that the earth was sufficient to meet the needs of all beings, but did not have enough resources to meet the needs of greed), asked: “Will this area be damaged by the greed of investors and corrupt officials?”

He said it was important to stop environmental destruction in the name of investment and hoped the provincial government would prove its commitment to protection of the Dasong Forest and Lake Buyan.

He called for the zone to be included in provincial environmental protection legislation as a sacred area, even though this would prevent large-scale nature tourism developing as an income stream for local people.

Central to the argument for environmental protection of the area, home to many temples and sites of ancestral heritage, is the scale of the development proposed: 20 hectares of land with 400 villas.

Forum Peduli Buyan (Buyan Care Forum) claims initial work has already begun on the development.

The Denpasar meeting followed discussions last weekend at Pancasari aimed at settling rival views and attended by Governor Pastika and Regent Bagiada together in Pancasari.

Pancasari elder I Gusti Agung Ngurah Darma Wirata said local people wanted the area to develop in ways that would improve their welfare and therefore in line with commercial development proposals.

“We ask the Governor to be more prudent,” he said. “Our people want Pancasari changed by utilising the existing potential.”

Other communities in the area seek less intrusive development that will protect the present environment and yet produce an economic return for Buleleng regency.

“Development of the Lake Buyan area will have a very broad impact. We think this should be handled in accordance with the principles of Tri Hita Karana (balance). We ask for the development plan to be considered in this light,” spokesman Komang Budiasa said.

Governor Pastika said after the weekend meeting that more studies were needed before the provincial government could make a decision on the future development of the lakes region.

“We must make the right decision,” he said. “We will continue the study.”

The issue has been discussed for a lengthy period. Buleleng in particular wants to get its share of Bali-wide development that currently focuses on the south of the island.

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