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If Only Bali Had Listened to its French Consultants

In 1971 A Master Plan for Bali's Tourism Development was Devised and then Largely Ignored.

(1/5/2008) Bali-based tourism commentator, Gregorius, recently published an op-ed article in the Bali Post asking why a Bali Tourism Study and Report to the Indonesian Government prepared by the consulting firm Societe Centrale pour l'equipment Touristique Ouetre-Mer (SCETO) has been largely ignored. That study, produced in 1971, painted a bleak picture of Bali's future unless a master plan was adopted that focused on preserving culture and emphasized developing quality tourism products for the Island.

One of SCETO's recommendation was reserving specific areas of the island for "mass tourism" development – such as Nusa Dua, Sanur and Lovina. Areas outside these tourism enclaves would be reserved for higher priced boutique properties, carefully controlled to preserve the local character of Bali and avoid the pitfalls of unregulated development. All of SCETO's recommendations were predicated on adherence to an integrated "master plan" for Bali tourism intended to create a sustainable tourism industry.

In his Bali Post article, Gregorius laments that Bali's current state of affairs reflects the failure of the Island's policymakers to heed the advice given by the French consultants. Bali is in the throes of an unregulated contest between the various regions of the Island to see which can build the greatest number of villas and hotels.

As a result, productive agricultural lands are being transformed into hotels, resorts and strip malls. An estimated 1,000 hectares of agricultural lands are lost every year in Bali’s current mad rush turn paradise into an island-wide housing development,

Bali's building boom is being transacted without reference to the carrying capacity of the island. The cumulative effect on the quality of Bali's natural and cultural environment is tragic: Forests disappear; agricultural production has become insufficient to meet the food demands of Bali's population; water tables drop as salt water encroaches into underground reservoirs; traffic jams and high levels of vehicular traffic are fouling the air; and a diminishing chorus of tropical song birds herald the silent Spring just ahead.

Bali's entire land mass is comprised of only 5,632 square kilometers or a miniscule 0.2 % of Indonesia's entire territory. Without exception, Bali's land, marine, mangrove and water resources are on the decline; longing desperately for the careful stewardship that might still rescue this special Island.

As explained by Gregorius, the Balinese have both the spiritual and traditional wherewithal to rescue their homeland. Tri Hita Karana - an innate Balinese belief that balance must always be maintained between Man and God, Man and Nature, and Man and Man – provide a viable road map for the Island’s salvation and rvrntual recovery.

But, as Gregorius poignantly asks: When, where and who will start the fight regain Bali's slipping fortunes?