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Connecting the Dots in Bali

Bali Press Reveals Local Businessman Who Invited Christiano Ronaldo to Bali at a ‘Mangrove Ambassador’ is Also Behind Controversial Plans to Reclaim Part of Benoa Bay Mangrove Area

(7/8/2013) DenPost quotes Professor Dr. I Gusti Bagus Wijaya Kusuma, chairman of the Center for Industrial and Energy Research at Bali’s Udayana University, as alleging that well known Indonesian businessman Tommy Winata is behind controversial plans to reclaim portions of Benoa Bay's mangrove forest.

Winata, an Indonesian businessman with various hotel and property holdings including the Discovery Kartika Plaza Hotel, is also the founder of the Artha Graha Peduli Foundation .


Professor Wijaya also told the press how in 2009 he was approached by a Dutch investor working with Indonesian interests and asked to prepare a study supporting the creation of man-made island in Benoa Bay. The well-know academic told DenPost that he adamantly rejected he offer, convinced that the reclamation project would destroy the environment and cause hardships on the public. “At the time, I refused the offer to undertake a study because the reclamation will cause great damage,” explained Professor Wijaya Kusuma.

Professor Wijaya said the areas targeted for reclamation involves Pulau Penyu and Pulau Pudut. These areas are slated for reclamation for the development of a new tourism zone comprising an F-1 race circuit and accommodation services.

“Before it was called the ‘Bali Marina Complex’ that would have a race circuit resembling F-1 in Monaco. The F-1 circuit will be located within the complex surrounded by a tourism development. This is a good concept, but why reclaim ocean areas that still are home to mangrove trees? Will they cut down the mangrove trees? If this is their plan, they could do this at Serangan Island. What’s more, the reclamation project at Serangan is currently stuck,” said Wijaya.

Tsunami Barriers?

Wijaya questions the emergence of PT Tirta Wahanan Bali International who have commissioned a study undertaken by a division of Bali’s Udayana University. That study, according to the Professor, portrays the proposed reclaimed islands as tsunami barriers, a fact the academic finds peculiar given that Benoa Bay is an area much less at risk to tsunami that other areas of Bali, such as North Bali, the western side of Bali’s airport and Tuban.

Claiming arguments put forth by investors of creating tsunami barriers is merely window dressing, Wijaya adds: “That reason is not logical, There are many hidden plans by investors. Don’t let the public be fooled by the investor’s plans.”

Separately, The Jakarta Post reports that the company proposing to develop the reclaimed islands that will absorb between 400 to 600 hectares of Bali’s Southern Mangrove Forest is PT Tirta Wahana International, a company The Jakarta Post claims manages the Discovery Shopping Mall and Discovery Kartika Plaza in Bal.

Artha Graha Peduli Foundation - a foundation connected with Tommy Winata and the Discovery Kartika Plaza recently bestowed the title of Mangrove Ambassador on Christiano Ronaldo and coordinated the tree planting ceremony attended by the Soccer Icon and Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on June 26, 2013.

A 73-page feasibility study prepared by a component of Udayana University reportedly supports PT Tirta Wahana’s plans to reclaim areas of Benoa harbor. The new islands would be accessible via the new Benoa – Nusa Dua toll way. The report is said to defend the project claiming the new islands will provide tsunami protection and would not negatively impact Bali’s ecosystem.

The Udayana feasibility study, however,  is currently not available for review by the general public.

The governor is said to support the reclamation project, but promises to convene a blue ribbon committee of academics and community leaders to review the reclamation and development plan.

Opposed to the reclamation plan, the chairman of the Friends of the Earth (WALHI-Bali), Wayan “Gendo” Suardana points to the disastrous results of the failed reclamation project at nearby Serangan Island, seen by WAHLI as causing great damage to Bali’s environment.

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