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Reclaiming Protest

Peaceful Protest Marches Held in Bali Both For and Against Plans to Reclaim Benoa Bat

(6/22/2014) Tempo.co reports that thousands of people opposed to plans to reclaim portions of Benoa Bay in Bali and a recently issued Presidential Decree for the project protested in front of the Bali Governor’s office on Tuesday, June 17, 2014.

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The latest wave of protests was prompted by the issuance of a Presidential Decree that eliminated the protected conservation status granted to the mangrove forest in Benoa Bay. The decree paves  the way for commercial developments on large swaths of wetlands to be reclaimed for use for businesses, tourist accommodation and a reported F-1 track.

An environmental activist from Indonesian Green Earth (WALHI), Wayan Gendo Suardaana, said the change in status of the areas was an act done at the request of investors to clear the way for the controversial reclamation of the Bay.

The planned reclamation will be undertaken by PT Tirta Wahana Bahari International (TWBI) and will result in a 700-hectare enlargement of Tanjung Benoa.

PT Tirta Wahana Bahari International is owned by a conglomerate headed by Indonesian businessman Tommy Winata who, In seeming contradiction to the proposed development and under the guise of his Artha Graha Peduli Foundation earlier this year invited soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo to plant mangrove trees in Benoa Bay accompanied by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. At the same time, Winata unilaterally named Ronaldo as a "global mangrove ambassador".

Meanwhile, a feasibility study conducted by Bali’s Udayana University has stated that the proposed reclamation of Benoa Bay is not environmentally sustainable and will represent a threat to the ecosystem of the most populous southern area of Bali. This information has been taken up by the members of WALHI and other members of the community in an alliance dubbed ForBali.

In their public protests ForBali claim that the reclamation of Benoa Bay will result in widespread beach erosion in South Bali, and change wave and tidal patterns. Because of this, ForBaii is calling for the revocation of the Presidential Decree and for Bali’s Governor Pastika to publicly take a stand against the project.

Protestors claim that the dealings surrounding the reclamation project are mired  in intrigues and have not been carried out in a transparent manner. Critics claim planning meetings for the reclamation have taken place behind closed doors, preventing the presentation of opposing opinions from environmentalists and the general public.

The protests by ForBali were followed by counter-protests by a much smaller group proclaiming themselves Bali Harmoni who marched on the Governor’s office supporting the Presidential Decree and urging Governor Pastika to back plans for reclamation citing that the plan will help Bali’s tourism industry grow.

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