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Bali's Subak System Part of the World's Heritage

Preserving Bali's Water Conservation and Distribution System is in the Best Interest of Bali and the Island's Tourism.

(2/23/2009) A Bali cultural preservation expert is urging UNESCO to nominate Bali's traditional irrigation and water management system (subak) to become part of UNESCO's World Heritage List.

Quoted in bisnis.com following a meeting with the Minister of Culture and Tourism, I Made Purna - Chief of the Agency for the Conservation of Prehistoric and Historic Sites in Bali, West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara (Balai Pelestarian Nilai Sejarah dan Purbakala Bali, NTB and NTT), said such a move was needed "so the people of Bali will maintain their harmonic connections with nature which helps to attract tourism."

Made Purna said that the initial recommendation for Bali heritage sites made to Minister Wacik included Jatiluwih, Taman Ayun and Parekisan. But now the focus has shifted, making the Subak system the main priority.

In the conservationist's view, Bali's subak as an iconic symbol of the life of the Island's people needs to elevated. From the subak system the Balinese learn organizational skills, environmental preservation and study democratic processes.

In making his case, Made Purna sees the naming of the subak system to world heritage status as an appropriate step, particularly in the midst of widespread diversion of agricultural lands to housing and commercial uses around the island's urban centers.

He praised the historical and cultural heritage of the Balinese people, seeing it has a suitable response to the urgent demands of the present age. Through the subak system the Balinese understand village organization skills and how to distribute limited water resources in a just way, based on community consensus. Via the subak organizational structure, Bali's farmers work to create a fair and equitable level of public welfare.

Moreover, according to Made Purna, subak is the only remaining communally-owned traditional water management system still in operation in the world today. "By naming the subak as a world heritage object, international tourists will flock to Bali to study and observe the traditional wisdom and native philosophy that drive that subak system," he explained.

Neighboring ASEAN countries and China have rice fields that have become tourism objects. But the rice terraces of Bali, operated under the subak, have proven their ability to attract foreign tourists from as far away as Zimbabwe who have traveled to the island to study and understand the Bali water distribution system.

In concluding his remarks, Made Purna said: "If we preserve the subak system, we are preserving something that God created; the Creator of the World's Natural Beauty. This is an important part of preserving the harmonious relationship between man and nature; man with God."