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A Bridge Too Close

Presidential Announcment of a Bridge to Connect Bali and Java Get's an Unenthusiastic Response from Bali's Locals.

(4/15/2002) The Presidential announcement of a mega-project connecting Bali and Java by bridge following Ibu Megawati Soekarnoputri's recent visit to the People's Republic of China (PRC) has earned little support among officials and the public on the island.

Acknowledging that Bali is an integral part of the Indonesian Republic, Putu Agus Suradnyana, the Chairman of Commission "D" in the Provincial Parliament for Bali, called for a careful review of the proposed bridge project. Suggesting fears of a cultural invasion from Java would be insufficient basis to reject the project, he suggested academicians must be engaged to measure the effect of such a project on the carrying capacity of Bali encompassing all aspects of sustainability - environmental, physical, social and cultural.

Similar comments suggesting the President's announcement failed to first take into account the aspirations of the people of Bali were made by prominent members of the regional parliaments around the island. A review of the local press finds little support for the idea, seen by many as a fundamental threat to the island's cultural integrity.

Trying to defuse the situation, Bali's Governor I Dewa Made Beratha, downplayed the Presidential announcement, depicting the plan as nothing more than a proposal at this stage reflecting only the desire of the PRC Government to extend technical and financial aid to the Indonesian Republic. This, despite the fact that The President also announced a very ambitious completion date of 2003 for the proposed bridge. The Governor emphasized that a careful study and review including the views of religious leaders, cultural exponents and environmentalists would be needed before the proposed project could be seriously considered.

The narrow straits between Bali and Java are currently connected by a ferry service.