Tasteless Vandalism Blots Our Landscape

It seems that everywhere you go in south Bali some environmental vandal has gouged out another chunk of the island’s fast-changing and fragile landscape. Often the gouging is accompanied by messy moving of tonnes of dirt and rock from one point to another, to heighten the natural level of part of a site to get around the 15-metre maximum building height restriction.

The trend to construct ghastly block-like monstrosities, reminiscent of Mao-era Beijing’s grim Russian-built apartment buildings, is wrong for Bali.

Attempts at slick marketing and impossibly high “guaranteed” rates of return do nothing to quell the inevitable slide of these bleak and inappropriate condotels into Bali’s slums of the future.

Construction appears to have halted on one such grotesque edifice whose five storeys packed with tiny rooms loom down as you travel up Jl Raya Uluwatu on the Bukit, just past the GWK cultural park, obscuring views from nearby homes and dominating the hill with its hideousness.

The posters on its billboards have been removed, which gives some hope that authorities have stopped the development for a breach of building regulations but raises the questions of how could it have been permitted to continue to such an advanced stage and for how long will it continue to offend with its utter ugliness?

Without door or window fittings, it’s an open house for hunted or ill creatures seeking a hideout. Its roof consists of three tiny green pyramids so spread out along the length of its flat top that they look like pimples on the arm of Atlas. It is truly obnoxious and I’ve yet to meet anyone with a less damming opinion.

The Playmate and I decided to go out for breakfast this week. We had in mind a nice little warung at a nearby beach. Not so long ago, Dreamland would have fitted the bill. Today, its beach shacks have been replaced by concrete rukos (shophouses) overshadowed by a super-sized nightlife venue ominously promoted as being located in the “new Kuta.”

It’s a certainty that most people who have moved into the Pecatu area around Dreamland, creating jobs and improving local living standards in the process, did so precisely because it is not Kuta. They chose a quiet area in which the all-night throb of some excitable DJ’s interpretation of music would not assault their ears and snatch away their sleep.

Dreamland Beach was definitely off the list and, besides, we couldn’t face the drive past the ubiquitous condotel to get there.

Having heard about improvements to the road to Balangan Beach, we set off in that direction and had barely rounded the closest corner to home on the Balangan road when a massive stone wall appeared smack in our faces and towered over us.

It was like driving through a narrow canyon. The wall is so close to the road that there is no longer any verge for vehicles to use in emergencies or for people to walk on. There is no means of widening the narrow and increasingly busy road.

A whole stretch of bushland had been displaced by the wall that reached about 15 metres at its highest points and created a dangerous blind corner.

It is madness, and like the debacle threatening to dislodge local traders from Nusa Dua Beach, indicates that planning and approvals all too often proceed without due consideration of long-term impact and public interest.

Curious, we inched our old Feroza through a gap in the wall and chugged to the top of a many-tiered building site on which the landscape had been raped of every last tree. It was eerily barren, unnaturally hot and bereft of life.

No doubt the previously well-positioned home behind it will soon look to concrete walls rather than to ocean across bushland. We couldn’t wait to get back to our modest home that, for the moment, gives us a view of greenery that houses birds, squirrels, lizards and other Bali natives that need places to live.

Bali desperately needs more designated green spaces, especially throughout its developing residential areas. And it needs rules to protect the investment of those who have paid top rupiah for an aspect they value. The reins must be pulled in on cowboy developers who are robbing Bali of its nature and appeal.

Instead, according to a collection of master plans and architects’ impressions posted on her blog by inveterate campaigner Susi Johnston, high-density, urban-style living projects now threaten to change the face of places far beyond the island’s populated south, in Ubud, Lovina, Tulamben and sleepy Amed. Her collection of eyesore projects asks a question – Multi-Storey Mayhem: Is Bali Building Itself into Oblivion? Indeed.

The world is full of holiday destinations that have been degraded by cheap and nasty condotels. Bali’s beautiful environment and innate sense of the aesthetic gives it an enviable opportunity to be far better.

Our rule-makers and enforcers need to re-educate themselves in the principles of harmony, balance, respect for the environment and all its creatures including humans, basic commonsense and decency to others. Applying these principles usually can achieve a compromise that is fair and satisfactory to all.

While we fail to act, erosion of Bali’s identity and appeal cuts ever deeper.

Filed under: ILAND

2 Responses to “Tasteless Vandalism Blots Our Landscape”

  1. Garry Graham (just call me G2) Says:

    To ILAND……Thunderous round of applause.

    So the cancer spreads. Dreamland was just that, a dream. The Government really needs to take accountability for this and all buildings blotting the landscape in the name of progress, admit it has gone after the dollar and that they have let developers run riot.
    Then , without taking to long, give Bali’s people back their island. Refine the building codes and bring in ”Bali green zones” around spiritual, environmental and culturally sensitive areas. Give people back access to their lives and island. There is a middle ground.
    I’ve stated before, everyone loves a nice hotel and a holiday to remember but this should not be at the expense of the locals lives or their heritage.
    Sharing is one thing, servitude is another.

  2. Susi Johnston Says:

    Please add . . . nobody is innocent . . . one of my lifelong favourite quotes keeps coming to mind when I think about this kind of thing. From Pogo (the cartoon strip):

    We have met the enemy and it is us.