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(10/26/2007) William J. Furney, Managing Editor of The Bali Timesí in the October 19, 2007 edition reports:
Jembrana Regency in the west of Bali has drawn up a plan to construct its own international airport, and is awaiting the go-ahead, and funds totaling some US$110 million, from the central government to proceed with the ambitious project, officials said.
A feasibility study has just been completed on a Jembrana International City Airport, but there were indications of resistance to the project from the Bali government, said Regent I Gede Winasa.
"As long as there is no goodwill from the provincial government, then efforts to develop Bali will never come to fruition," he said.
The proposed airport would take some of the strain off the island's only existing international airport, Ngurah Rai in southern Tuban, he said.
Ngurah Rai airport, just 13 kilometers from the island's capital Denpasar, is currently in the midst of a multimillion-dollar, large-scale expansion plan, which includes bigger international and domestic terminals to handle rising numbers of passengers, as well as possibly extending its sole runway.
However, Winasa said it was not possible to expand Ngurah Rai International Airport much more, as it was fenced in by beaches that are protected.
"From an environmental perspective, the expansion of Ngurah Rai airport is no longer possible, because the beaches surrounding it are protected from erosion."
Jembrana, in the west of the island, was a more suitable location for a busy international airport, said Winasa.
"Jembrana is a good alternative because it accommodates all the requirements for an international airport," he said.
The plans call for the airport to be built on 600 hectares of land in the Pekutatan plantation area; it would have a 3,600-meter-long runway, far more than Ngurah Raiís current 3,000 meters, though there are plans underway, however controversial, to extend it a further 600 meters, into mangrove swamp areas that would be reclaimed.
A toll road would be built to link the proposed Jembrana airport to the rest of the island, most notably key southern tourism areas.
Meanwhile, officials at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Jakarta said the Jembrana plan was being forwarded to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the Ministry of Transportation.
Senior official at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism I Ketut Wiryadinata said the airport could be a viable alternative to the expansion difficulties faced by Ngurah Rai airport, which was not able to adequately accommodate the amount of tourists coming into Bali.
"The current airport is already at its maximum, and it is difficult for more expansion to be done because of the limited land," he said.
In August this year, the average number of visitors to Bali was 5,400 per day, increasing to 6,000 in September, he said, adding that by 2010, the government was targeting up to 11,000 per day arriving in Bali.
Wiryadinata said Ngurah Rai airport hampered tourism in Bali, as it could not accommodate more people.
"Ngurah Rai airport is not capable of serving most tourism agencies from Europe, which often use big airplanes. They are unable to get direct access to Bali, especially when there are no airlines flying from Bali to Europe," he said.
According to Wiryadinata, the international airport proposed by Jembrana Regency meets the structural criteria for an airport, which requires a remote location, outside the center of a city.
"An international airport in Jembrana would also increase the development of other means of transport. It's even possible that there would be a toll road from Jembrana to Denpasar and even to Karangasem."
He said that if the President agreed with the plan, the central government would put the plan into its 2008 development program.
"Then the House of Representatives will discuss the plan with the president. If an agreement is reached, the project will be started in 2009," he said.
One local industry analyst, Jack Daniels of Bali Discovery Tours, said either an overhaul of the existing airport was required, or that a new airport be built.
"Clearly, Bali needs more air-handling capacity to serve the new generation of aircraft and long-distance flights. Whether Bali expands its current airport at Tuban or builds a new airport in Jembrana, the right decision will only be made if it is part of a long-term macro-view of Bali," he told The Bali Times.
"If an airport is seriously being considered for Jembrana, then other questions arise: Will the planning and budgeting for that facility contemplate the many environmental impacts? The need for an entire road system or mass transport system to connect the airport? And, the negative impact on local communities of a new airport project?"
Daniels advised caution, however, in a rush to build a new airport.
"There is a tendency in Bali to push on with every project, taking the attitude that we'll deal with the problems later as they arise. We build hotels at the end of village roads too small to serve them; erect monuments that stand half-built due to a lack of planning and funding; develop golf courses in areas already suffering severe water shortages; and issue building permits for hotels and villas without the faintest idea on how to supply electricity from an already severely burdened power grid."
"The decision on how to address the need for more air capacity in Bali needs to be taken carefully by people setting aside any personal narrow interests in favor of a more measured, island-wide perspective."
Balidiscovery.com thanks The Bali Times for their kind permission to reprint this article.
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