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A Warning on Deaf Ears

The Australian Declares Paradise Lost in Bali Under Forklifts and Fallacies


(9/30/2012)

A stinging rebuke highlighting the declining appeal of Bali as a tourism destination has been delivered by Deborah Cassrels, writing for The Australian in her article: [Paradise Lost As Once Beautiful Bali Buckles Under Forklifts And Fallacies].

Bali Must Clean Up its Act

The scolding leveled by Cassrels was echoed by Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism and the Creative Economy, Mari Elka Pangestu who recently warned government officials and hoteliers that the APEC Economic Summit scheduled for late 2013 represents a double-edged sword, capable of both promoting Bali to the world or spotlighting a dismal state of an island failing to manage both its present and its future.

Minister Pangestu’s message was simple: Bali must clean up its image.
As suggested  in The Australian article, the APEC Summit’s declared theme of “Resilient Asia, Engine of Global Growth” will he surrounded by the irony by endeavoring to “showcase an island where environmental and pollution woes have spun out of control.”

Accordingly, Pangestu has sounding a warning: "As soon as you have a meeting of international leaders you're going to have a lot of media ... and they will look for stories. They will go all over the island."

The APEC meeting, attended by more than 20 world leaders, will be headquartered in southern Bali – an area plagued by traffic congestion, water shortages, pollution and sewage disposal shortcomings.

The article goes on to explore the recent and very rapid decline in Bali’s environment, fed less by a lack of rules than a lack of discernable law enforcement. Efforts by Bali’s governor, Made Mangku Pastika, have tried to salvage the island via a tough new zoning law and a moratorium on new hotel development. These measure, although enjoying wide public support, have been ignored and resisted by Badung’s regent and vice-regent who steadfastly turn a deaf ear to dire warnings of Bali’s eventual collapse as a world tourism destination, claiming, in their defense, that new project are needed to increase the Regency's tax base.

Meanwhile, experts estimate that taxes paid by hotels and restaurants are under-collected by 135% by Badung regency officials who resist tooth and nail all efforts to modernize an antiquated and notoriously corrupt tax collection system.

Defensive reactions trying to brand Cassrels’ article as an unprincipled "external" attack on Bali won’t stand the test. Included in The Australian’s report are local warnings of impending disaster from the head of the Bali Tourism Board, a leading academic from Bali’s Udayana University, a Balinese environmentalist and an expatriate community worker in South Bali.

Hotel Mulia Bali

The article also reviews in some detail the 700-room Mulia Bali Hotel Project, mired in accusations linked to a national banking scandal. Also discussed in the article are allegation that the hotel project has transgressed rules stipulating a set back distance from a sacred local temple, Pura Geger, and is violating the minimum set back rule of 100-meters from the high-water mark. (See photo)

Hotel Mulia Bali - 100 Meter Set Back from High Water Mark? 
Click Image to Enlarge

Michael O’Leary, the Bali-based founder of an education and environmental ROLE Foundation, minced no words when quoted in The Australian, saying: "The Mulia is part of the rape of the island. It's way over the top," he says. "It's one of the biggest environmental nightmares for Nusa Dua. I think in two years the bubble is going to burst in Bali. Virtually every day you paddle through sewage. Every night when the swell's down the locals are cyanide fishing. There used to be 500 families involved in seaweed farming in front of the Mulia and they've been paid a pittance to stop doing it. Jobs have been replaced in the hotel industry, but most of them will come from Java and other parts of Bali."

As reported by Balidiscovery.com [See: Keeping it Strictly Mulia]  the general affairs manager of the Hotel Mulia Bali, Gusti Ngurah Rahardja, has proclaimed that the construction of the hotel is in strict accordance with all existing rules and regulations.

Meanwhile, dire warnings of bleak times to come are also offered by the director of the Bali environmental group Balifokus, Bayu Susilo, who says: "I am worried we will be visitors in our home. My grandchildren will find it difficult to get land for housing or a job. Each year new development consumes 1400 hectares of rice paddies. The tourism concept that has been implemented is selling Balinese culture rooted with Hinduism - its unique identity and landscape. If Bali is not managed well ... it will collapse."


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