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In Bali itís Capitalism First, the Environment Second

Bali Environmentalists Complain that Years of Careful Environmental Planning Sidelined by Presidential Agenda for Economic Development and APEC Summit

(5/25/2013) Bali Friends of the Earth (WALHI-Bali), Greenpeace and the Wisnu Foundation held a dialog on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 in Bali to discuss creating sustainable development model for Bali with an emphasis on village development.

The environmental activists joining the dialog were concerned that major infrastructure projects in Bali have caused significant damage to the Island’s eco-system.

As reported by The Bali Post, the elevated highway over the mangrove connecting Benoa-Ngurah Rai Airport-Nusa Dua and contracts granting development rights over publically-owned mangrove areas are seen to be threatening the future earning ability of those dependent on the Island's seaside eco-systems, such as Bali’s traditional fishing communities.

The chairman of the Wisnu Foundation, Made Suarnata, claimed that Indonesia is the third most bio-diversified country in the world after Brazil and the Congo. Suarnata, however, said bio-diversity is at risk due to injustices that exists in how Indonesia uses its natural resources, driven by capitalist forces that always leave the general public as victims.

The chairman of WALHI-Bali, Wayan “Gendo” Suardana, complained that the destruction of forested and sea areas in Bali and the resulting loss of bio-diversity have been legalized and legitimized by the government. Policymakers, he contends,  justify these acts on the basis of the Master Plan for Acceleration of the Development of the Indonesian Economy (MP3EI) that is designed to bring direct short and long-term advantage to investors.

“Gendo” cited the case of the ongoing destruction of the Taman Hutan Raya (Tahura) Ngurah Rai Mangrove Forest by the construction of Bali’s new elevated toll road (JDP). Saddened by the condition of Bali’s increasingly threatened environment, ‘Gendo’ complained: “If you look at provincial zoning laws, the JDP is not included in that document. The original plan, in fact, includes a toll way from Benoa to Serangan Island.

However, because the JDP became part of the MP3EI and plans to prepare for the APEC Summit, the new ‘unplanned’ road was allowed to be built. The effect of all this is that all the time and energy spent in carefully preparing the provincial zoning rules (RTRWP 2009) was obliterated with a single presidential decision.”

The WALHI-Bali chairman accused the MP3EI of over-emphasizing the advancement of the tourism sector at the expense of the fisheries and agricultural sectors that are slowly disappearing form the Nation’s economy.

More Trouble Ahead?

“Gendo” sounded a further warning: “What will be most destructive in the future are a number of large projects that have not been fully exposed to the public. There are plans to build a marina in South Bali with indications that a new island of reclaimed land will form part of the investment. This is also due to MP3EI that insists on promoting water-based and marine cruising tourism.”

He went on to tell of at least 102.47-kilometers of Bali’s beaches under threat of erosion spread across 140 different locations in Bali. In other words, some 23% of Bali’s 438.8-kilometer shoreline is being washed away. Efforts to address erosion are currently limited to only 64-kilometers of beaches.

“Gendo” reminded of how the Bali Environmental Agency undertook a study in 2011 that found 13 major beach areas were badly polluted in Bali including the major tourism areas of Kuta, Sanur, Mertasari, Serangan, Benoa, Soka Tabanan, Nusa Dua and Lovina.

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