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Letting Off Local Steam

Local Legislators Want to Rethink Bedugul's Geothermal Energy Project.

(11/16/2004) Bali's provincial legislators are having second thoughts regarding a geothermal energy project now being developed on the slopes of Bali's Mount Batukaru.

The project, restarted by local investors this year after a false start in 1998, is managed by P.T. Bali Energy Limited, which eventually hopes to establish steam turbines producing 7-10 megawatts of electrical power driven by tapping into sub-terrarium heat sources to produce steam that, in turn, provides a clean source of power to produce electrical energy. The entire project project expected to eventually occupy 25 hectares of land, has already drilled 5 holes resulting in one well actively producing steam for power.

Local legislators, prompted by concerns from residents over upsetting the environmental balance of the area or violating an area considered highly sacred to the Balinese, have held numerous fact-finding visits and hearing with the developers. The law-makers have also scheduled a "comparative study trip" for late November 2005 to a similar geothermal operation in West Java after which a final determination will be made on whether or not the project can continue.

Nyoman Gelebet, an instructor in the Technical Faculty at Bali's Udayana University has raised concerns that the access roads being built to the site will open the area to uncontrolled exploitation of one of the island's last natural forests.

Developers, meanwhile, are insistent that their project conforms to the highest environmental protection standards and is being handled to ensure minimal impact on local culture and the natural beauty of the Batakaru highlands.