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(4/11/2011) A recent strong critique of Bali by Andrew Marshall in the April 1, 2011 edition of TIME Magazine crediting Bali for "Holidays in Hells" has become a point of introspection by Bali's Governor [See: A Very Matter of Fact Governor in Bali]. Another article, this time in the Bali Post, suggests that the regent of Karangasem should follow suit and reflect on his past development decisions that have damaged East Bali.
Nengah Netra, who sits on the council of the Institute for Public Information (LIRA), said, "that strong criticism should become a trigger to take firm and definite action to save Bali. Both from the perspective of zoning which remain a mess, traffic congestion, criminal acts such as the increasing number of robberies, together with the plastic waste laying around."
Netra went on to say that many local residents care deeply about preserving Bali's culture and saving the island's environment. He complained that his past efforts to offer constructive criticism to the government have been greeted with hostility from policymakers who view those who speak up as enemies who are opposed to business.
Nengah Netra said the lack of positive concrete action has opened the door for TIME Magazine to launch its "critical bomb" on Bali. With no small amount of cynical disappointment, Netra said Bali's officials have been too busy making tourism promotion trips to Europe, Japan, Korea and Miami to have any time left to deal with the very real problems in the field.
As a result, he continued, the destruction of the environment and a variety of legal violations have, unintentionally or otherwise, been left unaddressed. Bali's rivers and irrigation canals await firm, concrete and sustainable steps to commence recovery. The public continues to throw their trash into gutters, irrigation channels, rivers and the surrounding seas. Rubbish tossed into rivers in the rainy season eventually floats down to the sea which, as a result, become increasingly polluted.
Focus on Karangasem
Nengah Netra called on the regent and high officials in the eastern Bali region of Karangasem not to be deluded ever again into changing rules to suite new investors. He said the mad rush to sign up as many investors and investment projects as possible in the shortest possible time has left the impression that "policies pay little attention to the people's welfare and the need to preserve the environment."
To cite a specific example, Netra points to a large hotel project on Bukit Mimba in Padangbai. The regent of Karangasem, Wayan Geredeg, once issued a new regional regulation that unilaterally changed the provincial zoning law (RTRW) in order that the hotel project could proceed. While the provincial zoning plan declared the area used by the hotel as a "green zone" Geredeg changed its classification on the recommendations of the regional House of Representatives (DPRD-Karangasem). Following the issuance of the new regulation by Geredeg, the former "green zone" was rezoned and declared an "exclusive tourism zone."
Pointing to the illegality of any attempt to make regional regulations that overrule provincial laws, Netra said the regent regulation caused wave of bitter laughter at the time it was issued.
On the Slope of a Hill
Also in Karangasem, the construction of a villa on the southeast slope to Bukit Gumang bears closer examination. Netra also said future mistakes in policy, intentional or otherwise, must be avoided as in the case of the plan to build a golf course and hotel near Pasir Putih beach in Bubbug beach and Perasi.
Speaking of the Pasir Putih beach project, Netra told of the frustration of many local residents trying to contract their land. The landowners felt the subject rental contracts were unclear and not legally transparent. In the end, people who had handed over land certificates withdrew from the project fearing their certificates would be impaired.
As a result, a legal battle is now underway with legal complaints filed by local land owners against South Korean investor Kik Bong Yi , the village unit chiefs (Klian) of Bugbug and Perasi, notaries and the government land office in Karangasem in order to prevent the project form moving ahead until a final legal resolution of the related civil and criminal cases is in hand.
Returning to the hotel project on Bukit Mimba, Netra bemoaned how a once green hilltop has now been devastated and bulldozed by the investor of the half-finished project. It remains unclear if the investor intends to finish the hotel or merely walk away leaving the hilltop scarred forever.
In the past, Bali governor Made Mangku Pastika asked that the Bukit Mimba project not seek to violated the 2009 zoning law. In response, Geredeg said he did not want to revoke a regulation already issued by his office, even if it contradicted the legally dominant provincial law.
A leading official in Padang Bai, Kadek Aris Suyasa confirmed the Bukit Mimba project was halted. He told the press he did not know the reason for the delay, but had heard the investor was waiting for permits to continue the project.