There is ample hope for the future of Bali’s main economic driver, tourism, after confirmation was received this week that plans are, after all the talk, going ahead for the construction of a second international airport, in the neglected northern part of the island.
If only there were the same urgent focus on the remainder of Bali’s severely lacing infrastructure.
Tourism officials and those with interests in the tourism industry here are looking hungrily at the promised statistics. Angkasa Pura, the state-owned airport operator behind the new facility, tells us that the Buleleng airport will be able to process up to 40 million passengers a year. Ngurah Rai, our existing airport, will handle around 20 million when its current expansion is finished.
The danger lies in lop-sided development that could put immense strain on already overburdened infrastructure systems if they are not only improved but added to. Certainly the proposed new airport is sorely needed, to relieve pressure on the crowded south and to enable the regions and their peoples to benefit more evenly from tourism, as well as allowing tourists themselves more options. But it should not add to the exasperations we are currently experiencing – gridlock, environmental degradation, pollution.
Indeed, a second airport will require, as Angkasa Pura says, considerable infrastructure development, particularly new roads to ferry people to and fro. It is likely that services such as accommodation will spring up around the airport, as happens everywhere, and in this the authorities, in Buleleng and at the governor’s office, must be cautious in issuing permits so that a glut of providers does not take hold and metastasise in the area. We do not need more blights on what was once an island-wide pristine environment.
Carefully managed, there is a bright future for all on this island. Slapdash measures, however, could be the ruination of us.