Like the rampant deforestation in southern Sumatra and Kalimantan that is encroaching on the natural habitat of indigenous species such as the Sumatran tiger and elephant and the orangutan, wild development in many parts of Bali is threatening the existence of Bali’s exceptional culture.
And as in those primordial parts of Indonesia, the local population has a habit of biting back.
For sure, many want a piece of the Bali action, at a time when the island’s tourism sector is thriving like never before. But we do not want a Hawaii. Governor I Made Mangku Pastika is all too aware of this and that is why he has banned the construction of more large-scale hotels that gobble up precious land-space and tap into the ever-decreasing water table. Pastika, however, is powerless to enforce regents to adhere to his directive, because under local autonomy legislation each district – regency – is free to issue its own building permits. That has not dissuaded the governor from insisting his subordinates toe his line.
This year has seen the opening of additional star-rated hotel complexes in southern areas of Bali, and the announcement of more to come. There already exists a glut of room oversupply, so why the rush among developers? For global chains with linked-in reservation systems, a Bali property adds extra choice, and cachet.
What is clear in all of this is that existing legislation is ambiguous, and where it is not it is frequently ignored. Water-line set-back rules are routinely breached, and villa complexes continue to pop up alongside religious structures such as temples, even though such close proximity is prohibited.
Some local leaders have said the current spate of construction is good for employment, and that is true, but it need not be concentrated in one area. It’s impossible, they say, to adhere to setback and other regulations in as small a place as Bali because nothing would ever get built. We disagree. The south of Bali is overcrowded to the point of emulating a mini version of our gridlocked national capital. Governor Pastika’s announcement last month that Bali will get a second airport, possibly in the north, brings hope for underdeveloped areas that are in sore need of the tourist dollar – and fresh opportunities for investors. After all, Bali has a lot more to offer as a tourist attraction that merely the southern beaches.
Development needs to spread around Bali, bringing new fortunes to the entire island. It would also be a relief.Filed under: Editorial