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Has Development Run Amok in Bali?

Article in 'The Australian' Sounds Dire Warning on Bali's Unbridled Development.

(1/11/2010) An article in Australia's The Australian chronicles the surge in development experienced by Bali over the past decade, suggesting that the island's carrying capacity for such development may have surpassed the breaking point and that "Bali's magic" may be under threat.

The article says "cracks are appearing in the system as archaic utilities and infrastructure buckle under rampant development denuding the island's rain forests and coastline." Equally alarming, are the warnings sounded that "the Balinese are in danger of disorientation from their attractive culture of customs, dance, music and art."

Citing heretofore unheard of traffic jams, pollution, power blackouts, water shortages and piles of trash across the island, Oswar Mungkasa of the National Development Planning Board (BAPPENAS) says, "if Bali continues in this way, it will collapse in 10 years. For me, Bali is not as attractive as it was. Local government doesn't realise, because investors keep coming, it is sitting on a time bomb."

Charged with helping Bali devise systems for waste management, Mungkasa, fears nothing short of a cholera outbreak will wake the Balinese up to the environmental disaster lurking in the near future.

The Bali Mindset

According to Mungkasa: "The [Balinese] mindset is not educated or aware. They see sanitation as a cost, not an investment. They dump their rubbish in the drainage system. They cannot understand why they should change their habits."

This lure of the investment dollar, has caused zoning rules to be ignored that stipulate setbacks from beach fronts, roads and rivers. Equally, rules that mandate a maximum building height of 15 meters and 40% open space for rain water re-absorption are flaunted by developers.

Rampant and Random Urban Sprawl

One Australian involved in Bali's property sector described the current situation as one of "rampant and random urban sprawl." Reflecting this there is little land left for sale in Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. Areas once populated by local villages and fishing villages are now covered with hotels and villas; leaving future generations of Balinese disenfranchised from highly priced land that once housed family and ancestral temples.

The article quotes sources saying that Canggu, Tabanan and Bali's southern peninsula will soon as evidenced by rampant development and soaring real estate prices.

A study undertaken less than one decade ago projected that the ideal population level for Bali was 2.3 million, a figure made mockery of by a population now passing the 3.4 million mark. The head of the Bali Tourism Board, Ida Bagus Wijaya said: "We have to upgrade electricity, water, sewerage and telecommunications. But there is no proper planning. Kuta and surrounding areas has blown out in population and size. Infrastructure is not keeping up with development."

As a result, permits are issued by often time venal officials with no regard to carrying capacity issues, such as electrical power shortages and a shrinking water supply.

Swimming in Sewage?

An Indonesian environmentalist, Yuyun Ismawati, said that recent water tests conducted in front of some of Bali's most luxurious hotels in Seminyak were shocking: "The lab told me it was sewage. It was actually sea water. I would not swim in the ocean in Bali."

An Instant Boodle Mindset

Blaming his fellow Balinese for having an "instant noodle" mindset, highly respected Balinese academic Adnyana Manuaba said, "no one seems conscious of the fact Bali is a small island with limitations." Citing the one million plus motorbikes and vehicles on an island virtually bereft of mass transport, Manuaba added, "the government is happy to receive a lot of taxes from motor cars."

Stuart Smith, an expatriate living in Bali for the past 12 years warned, "coastal land is being desecrated. It's like a shock wave and it's grown out of control." retail outlets. Smith mentions a new development in Canggu - Sea Sentosa that he claims is built across from an estuary and just meters from the beach in flagrant disregard of existing zoning laws.

To read this important article in The Australian: [Developers Drawn to Tourism Magnet]