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The Heat Beneath our Feet

Indonesian Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Trying to Persuade Fellow Balinese to Drop Opposition to Bedugul Geothermal Project.

(12/18/2011) The chairman of Commission I of the Bali House of Representatives (DPRD-Bali), Made Arjaya, is rejecting efforts to restart the construction of a geothermal plants in Bedugul, citing an existing formal recommendation from the governor and the DPRD-Bali's stand against power generation in Bali from thermal sources below the earth’s surfaces.

Quoted in Bisnis Bali, Arjaya said, “We have firmly rejected the plans to continue the geothermal project in Bedugul on the grounds that such a project is in opposition to Bali’s culture and religion.” He went on to say he was disappointed by the position taken by the central government and announced by the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources (ESDM), Jero Wacik, in support of the Bedugul geothermal project.

“We all know of the growing future need for electricity in Bali. But this does not mean that the Bedugul geothermal projec,t which is contrary to our culture and religion, must be accepted,” protested Arjaya. The Sanur-based politician insists that the need for electricity does not mean that Bali’s mountains and forests must be sacrificed as long as power supplies from Java are still available.

Arjaya added: “The Balinese people honor and hold sacred their mountains and forests, places they see as the very source of life. Thus, drilling to exploit subterranean heat sources is a violation of that which the people of Bali hold sacred.”

The lawmaker said it was fitting that the government continue to look for alternative energy sources, but never at the expenses of the interests of local values and culture.

Joining the chorus opposed to geothermal energy in Bali, Wayan Suardana of the Indonesian Friends of the Environment Group (WALHI), said arguments based on the need for new electrical sources made by Jero Wacik in support of the geothermal project made no sense.

Suardana added: “Until now the ESDM ministry has yet to do a thorough study on the threat of an electrical crisis in Bali through the year 2025. Studies citing a shortage of a current electricity crisis make no senses as the supply of power to Bali has been relatively safe, leaving us to optimize the supplies of electricity that we have.” He explained that factually Bali imports 600 megawatts of electricity while peak demand stands at 570 megawatts.

The WALHI spokesman also cited the proposed “Bali Crossing” that will supply 1,500 megawatts and the construction of a gas-based power generating station at Celukan Bawang expected to produce 1,000 megawatts. He says there are even more sources of electrical power that Bali can utilize without hurting the island’s natural environment or cutting down its forests. WALHI is posing the further question, asking if the proposed geothermal exploration in Bedugal is intended assist the lower economic sectors in Bali or more focused on the desires and interests of the island’s elite.

WALHI also contends that the exploration of geothermal energy in Bedugal has the potential of causing a water crisis by affecting underground water reservoirs and nearby lakes. 

Meanwhile, Minister Wacik, also from Bali, has pledged to convene all the interested parties to discuss the geothermal project in order to discover a common ground that might allow the plan to proceed.

As an added inducement, the Minister has promised free electrical power to anyone living within a 10-kilometer radius of the proposed geothermal project. He also said that he would also personally pay the cost of any religious ceremonies at temples within the same radius that night be religiously mandated in connection with the power project.

Minister Wacik said exploration at the Bedugul site dates from 1995 but has been thwarted by religious and cultural opposition to the project.