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Confusing Developments at Lake Buyan

Despite Governor's Rejection of PT Anantara Project, Press Reports that Recommendation Issued by Bupati Bagiada for another Development Project at Sacred Balinese Lake.

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Despite an the emotional pledge by Bali's governor Made Mangku Pastika that he would be uncompromising in his defense of sacred Lake Buyan [See: Lake Buyan Investment Vetoed by Governor Pastika] it appears that his high-minded environmentalism may have fallen victim to a recommendation for another development made by Buleleng's regent, Bagianda.

While governor Pastika has vetoed efforts by PT Anantara to establish a floating stage on the lake and manage the lakes surrounding shore areas, another investor has apparently already received an endorsement from Buleleng's regent to develop a 20 hectare tract of land for 400 villas.

According to Radar Bali, the Bali chairman of the Friends of the Earth (WALHI), Agung Wardana, has confirmed that permits for the massive villa project on Lake Buyan have already been issued by Bagiada to PT Nusa Bali Abadi.

Wardhana told the press that while the governor may make strong statements refusing PT Anantara, this does not stop the Bupati (Regent) of Buleleng from encouraging a similar investor who wants to build hundreds of villas on the shores of Lake Buyan.

Agung Wardana bemoaned that Bagiada wants to give control of a 20 hectare plot of land for the purpose of building 400 villas near Lake Buyan. Adding: "The physical condition of Lake Buyan at this point in time is most saddening. The developer already controls 20 hectares of jungle land on the edge of Lake Buyan in order to build 400 villas. The investor, however, has yet to begin building the project."

Wardana told Radar Bali that PT Nusa Bali Abadi had originally tried to obtain a recommendation for the project from Bali's former governor, Dewa Made Beratha, who reportedly rejected the proposal as environmentally and culturally unsustainable. Undeterred, the developers took their case to the regent of Buleleng, Putu Bagiada, who lent his signature to the lake side villa project.

Describing the possible thinking behind the recommendation process, Wardana said: "Bagiada gave his permission. His assumption was that a jungle area can be used for building tourism accommodation. In fact, this is not the case. A jungle tourist area must remain largely untouched by physical infrastructure investment. It can be made into a tourism object, perhaps for trekking or camping pursuits."

Radar Bali said that the permits granted by regent Bagianda to PT Bali Nusa Abadi was used by project participant, Nani Hanopo, to persuade the Minister of Forestry to issue a recommendation for the use of 20 hectares of jungle land. The project is located directly on the shore land in the Dasong jungle tract area. Wardana stated: "At this time there is already a sign board declaring the right of PT Nusa Bali Abadi to develop the project. It reads like the public are not allowed to enter the area. And, even thought the villas have yet to be constructed, there is a brochure circulating under the branding 'The Lake Villa'. This is crazy."

Wardana believes that the recommendations granted by regent Bagiada and the Minister of Forestry are legally flawed because they fail to include the required recommendation of Bali's governor and the Minister of Culture and Tourism, The WALHI chairman for Bali insists that the government rules on the use of "jungle tourism zones" require the recommendations of all these parties and also specifically forbids the building of accommodation. "The recommendation held by PT Nusa Bali is only a recommendation of the Minister of Forestry and regent Bagiada and, because of that, is legally flawed",explained Wardana.

Wardana also explained that any villa development of the area would automatically require the removal of jungle trees that stand only 2-3 meters apart, a density of tree growth that would not permit villas to be built without sacrificing jungle tree.

The jungle tract surrounding Lake Buyan is also home to no less than nine Hindu temples. The close proximity of important sacred temples to commercial or residential developments is expressly forbidden under Bali's zoning laws.

Wardana is calling on governor Pastika to formally write to Minister of Forestry asking that he withdraw his recommendation. He also demanded that regent Bagiada revoke his recommendation. According to Wardana, a similar letter written by Governor Beratha and sent to the Minister of Forestry did not receive the dignity of a reply.

When governor Pastika was informed of the latest development in the Lake Buyan case during his "open house" on Saturday, February 1, 2009, he promised to look into the matter further.

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