Indonesia's former Tourism Minister, I Gede Ardika, has joined voices with an environmental expert, Made Merta, in expressing reservations about moves to establish a second international airport in North Bali.
Both men who hail from North Bali are concerned that The Buleleng International Airport Project will damage the natural and cultural advantages of Bali's northern shores.
Quoted by Bali Daily (The Jakarta Post), both Ardika and Merta questioned the need for a second international airport in Bali “If the island is serious about realizing true quality tourism.”
They expressed concerns that the proposed airport would adversely affect the natural surroundings, Balinese cultural traditions and natural surroundings of the area.
Ardika argued that what Bulelng needs is not an airport, but better transportation and supporting road infrastructure in combinations with a cruise-ship harbor at Celukan Bawang.
“The construction of an airport would [have a negative] impact on the environmental, social and cultural situation of the Buleleng people,” said Ardika. “Buleleng should be preserved because its natural and cultural potential serves as its main advantage from southern Bali.”
Issuing a warning, Ardika continued: “We have witnessed ourselves how southern Bali is facing uncontrolled development now. If Buleleng can control its development, we will become a more advanced region than in the south.”
Suggesting Bali should take note of the severe water crisis in Bali’s southern region and the related cost of uncontrolled development, Ardika is urging the preservation of old villages and activities in order to promote local culture now be commenced in North Bali. “Farming with the Balinese traditional subak [irrigation system] must be conserved, while tourists do not need to stay in hotels, instead they can stay in the villagers’ homes,” said Ardika.
Citing a success story from North Bali, Ardika pointed to ongoing development on Pemuteran Beach where a Balinese investor has successfully managed to restore damaged reefs while enhancing balance between members of the community and their surrounding environment.
Made Merta of Panji Sakti University in Singaraja said the province of Bali must decided whether to pursue “quality” or “quantity” tourism in North Bali.
“A second airport is required if Bali still expects to increase the number of visitors. But a technical study on passenger safety, the social cost of development, as well as whether the plan is in line with the Tri Hita Karana concept should be performed first,” said Merta.
Tri Hita Karana is a central philosophy of Balinese life mandating the need to maintain balance between men, natural and God.