Zoning-Law Battle Heats Up in Opening Round

DENPASAR

In the first round of the battle over new zoning laws and restrictions on hotel developments officially launched by Bali governor I Made Mangku Pastika last month, regency chiefs and tourism leaders unanimously rejected the plans at a meeting in Denpasar. Religious leaders, meanwhile, offered their support to the new restrictions.

As reported in The Bali Times last week, the governor’s new zoning laws include a moratorium on hotel developments in crowded south Bali, a restriction on building within a five-kilometre radius of any major temple and the threat of demolition for unlicensed properties.  Under the plans 25 villas in the Bukit area of Badung regency are facing the immediate threat of demolition.

The plans brought immediate protests from local communities in Badung, who claim they are dependent on tourism for their livelihoods, and from individual regency heads keen to press ahead with development.

At a heated gathering on Sunday, Pastika met with supporters and opponents of the new zoning laws. Nine regency heads from across Bali, and representatives of the Bali branch of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) unanimously opposed the new order, saying that it would damage tourism.

Head of Tabanan regency Ni Made Eka Wiryastuti called on the governor to consider the financial wellbeing of local people before pushing ahead with the new laws.

“Think of the thousands of people who are dependent on the tourism industry for their livelihoods,” she said.

Anak Agung Gde Agung, head of Badung, one of the regencies most likely to feel the impact of the new regulations, made a similar plea, saying that tourism had brought huge benefits to locals, especially in the barren and previously impoverished Bukit area where agriculture was limited by a lack of water.

“Should we sacrifice them for the sake of the bylaw?” he said, adding that he felt that the bylaw would prove unworkable and required revision before any attempt at implementation.

Other concerns raised by the regents included the threat of litigation if moves to demolish offending properties are followed through. Klungkung chief Wayan Candra said compensation would have to be paid to any affected villa owners.

“I’m worried that the government will face multiple lawsuits if it rushes into this and then refuses to pay compensation,” he said.

Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana, head of Gianyar, which includes Ubud, said the restriction relating to building near temples was particularly ill-considered, citing his own district where there are 101 temples and where strict application of the five-kilometre exclusion zone would leave virtually no space for building.

“So where can we locate buildings that will contribute to the development of the local economy?” said Ardhana, who is also the Bali head of PHRI.

Despite the complaints of regency heads, however, the plans for exclusion zones around major temples received warm support from Hindu leaders attending the meeting, who urged the governor to ignore protests and to push ahead with implementation of the bylaw.

“The bylaw guarantees the sustainability of Bali’s environment,” said Hindu priest Ida Pedanda Sebali Tianyar Arimbawa. His opinion was echoed by environmental activists at the meeting, who claimed that the island’s environment was approaching breaking point, and that continued development at current rates was unsustainable.

“Bali is now facing environmental degradation from all sides. There’s a water and electricity crisis, garbage and contamination problems, plus chronic traffic jams,” said Wayan Gendo Suardana, Bali representative of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment.

Governor Pastika closed the meeting by saying he would take all the opinions offered into account while trying to find an acceptable solution to the issue.

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