The President of Indonesia is scheduled to come to Bali in mid-June to formally inaugurate two important new infrastructure projects. President Yudhoyono will preside over the opening of the new Simpang Siur Underpass Interchange in Kuta and the opening of a magnificent new toll way suspended over coastal waters connecting Sanur to the Southern tip of the Island.
Both projects are being completed in record time and are certain to help reduce traffic congestion in Bali and improve the daily experience of both Island visitors and residents. With the inauguration of the two projects there now exists a hope that bottlenecks at the Simpang Siur intersection will become a thing of the past and the one-hour or more drive from Sanur to Nusa Dua will be reduced to only 10-15 minutes.
Amidst these bright prospects of less traffic congestion, we’d like to pause briefly and remind PT Jasa Marga – the company building and supervising the new toll road, of a critical promise they made to the people of Bali.
The original environmental impact study undertaken before the toll way project commenced openly acknowledged the importance of protecting the large mangrove forest area that skirts the shore line under and surrounding the elevated road way. Accordingly, pledges were made to take extraordinary measure and use floating pontoons to install “minimally invasive” pylons that will raise the roadway above the mangrove, allowing the natural ebb and flow of tides, wild life and sea life to go on unimpeded.
Engineering miscalculations, however, underestimated the difficulty of keeping the promise to use floating pontoons, causing the project to resort to using landfill to construct access roads under the path of the roadway.
This change in construction method prompted Friends of the Earth-Bali (WALHI) to scream “foul” – claiming the road project’s failure to stick with the original construction plan was causing massive, possibly irrevocable, damage to an eco-system that plays a central role in the propagation of sea life and in protecting Bali from tidal surges.
When the temporary access roadways were built, WAHLI sent letters of protest to the project managers and Bali’s governor, asking the project be halted until protections could be put in place that would ensure the protection and sustainability of the nearby mangrove forest.
PT Jasa Marga responded to the protests issuing public assurances that all the temporary roads used in the construction of the highway would be completely removed and the natural state of the mangrove restored.
We take this opportunity to remind PT Jasa Marga of the promises they made and the need to spare no expense in protecting mangrove and Bali’s environment.
At the same time, we also call on Bali’s Governor and the Republic’s President to steadfastly refuse to participate in any formal inauguration of the new project until they personally inspect the area and confirmed that PT Jasa Marga has honored its pledge to the people of Bali and the Island's future generations by removing all the roads beneath the new toll way.
Does the deadline need to be so absolutely enforced? We think so.
Absolute promises made not to strangle the mangrove by building access roads were broken early in the building process. Therefore, now is the time for the project’s manager to demonstrate good faith and do all possible to set things right, even if that entails delaying the opening of the road.
Linking the operation of the highway to the removal of the access roads will also serve as an added incentive for the roadway’s investors to waste no time in keeping promises made to both the mangrove and the people of Bali.
The need to preserve this precious island's environment should never be assigned a less than fundamental priority.
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