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Bali's Traditional Water Rights Must be Maintained

Educator and Former Top Tourism Official Sees Bali's Traditional Culture Under Threat from Diminishing Role of 'Krama Subak' System.

(8/5/2006) The authority of the Krama Subak, or Bali's traditional water distribution councils, is increasingly under threat from national irrigation legislation. The national legislation - which prioritizes water rights in the order of the needs of humans, animals and finally plant agriculture is a reversal of the age-old primacy given by the Krama Subak to agriculture.

The Krama Subak are the traditional councils which have governed Bali's unique system of water distribution for hundreds of years working to create an equitable system to sustain the Island's system of inter-connected rice terraces.

Speaking at a gathering of approximately 100 Krama Subak held in Gerokgak Village, North Bali, on Tuesday, August 1, 2006, Professor Dr, I Gede Pitana, the former Chief of the Bali Tourism Authority, called on the Krama Subak to retain their traditional authority over the Island's water rights.

The meeting, sponsored by the Buleleng branch of the Young Business Peoples Association (HIMPI) and the Department of Agriculture from Udayana University, saw Dr. Pitana point the the Krama Subak's preeminent historical claim to the right to distribute water rights in Bali and the United Nations' acceptance of the primacy of traditional rights as forming the legal basis for retaining Bali's traditional system of water distribution.

Pitana's comments, quoted in the Indonesian language Bali Post, cited the subak system as a cornerstone of Balinese society that is best positioned to help develop the Island's vision of agricultural tourism (agrowisata).