Bali’s Subak System Facing Great Challenge


Ubiquitous land conversions on Indonesian island resort of Bali will sooner or later eliminate the traditional agriculture system, locally known as subak, if nothing is done about it.

Agricultural land conversion into villas and hotels in Bali for the interests of tourism and other businesses is growing at an alarming rate and threatening not only the local ecology but also productive farmland where subak irrigation system is applied.

Uncontrolled land conversion in some parts of Bali has resulted in ecological imbalance and degradation, leading to the destruction of subak.

I Wayan Windia of Udayana University have noted that the destruction of subak will affect all aspects of life on the paradise island.

“The destruction of subak due to the use of land for purposes other than agriculture has been discussed since a long time, but it has never been addressed completely,” Windia pointed out in Denpasar last Saturday.

He noted that if the subak in Bali gets destroyed, the culture of Bali that has been passed on from generation to generation would also disappear sooner or later.

“The destruction of subak will destroy all economic sectors in Bali because they are all interrelated,” he added, explaining that economic sectors, particularly tourism, on the island are based on local culture and tradition.

But he pointed out that in reality the tourism sector has destroyed the agricultural area and the subak in Bali.

Besides that, Windia explained that the elimination of the Sedahan-Agung institution has weakened the subak irrigation method.

The Sedahan-Agung institution was established in the 1970s, in every sub-district, for its officials to coordinate the activities of subak in order to help the heads of subak solve their problems, and to collect land-tax from subak farmers.

However, because of a central government regulation, the Sedahan- Agung was eliminated, because of which, no officials from the institution can solve the problem pertaining to subak.

“Sedahan-Agung served as the protector of subak agricultural method under the district heads and mayors but now it has been eliminated,” he noted.

According to him, the absence of the Sedahan-Agung institution has made the subak traditional irrigation and agriculture organization seem like an orphan.

Meanwhile, Bali agricultural observer Gede Sedana stated in Denpasar on Tuesday that various efforts must be made to maintain the subak traditional agriculture method and to develop ecotourism in its areas.

Sedana noted that the development of ecotourism, in the areas where subak is being applied, will positively empower the local farmers.

“Empowering the farmers on the basis of sustainable nature will improve their welfare, manage the wealth of the local economy, and improve the integrity of local ecosystem,” agricultural observer Gede Sedana stated here on Tuesday.

The dean of Dwijendra University’s Faculty of Agriculture noted that ecotourism development is based on natural attraction with regard to support rural and cultural tourism.

According to him, ecotourism includes a number of important aspects concerning sightseeing tours, natural environment, local community involvement, local culture, and sustainability of the environment.

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