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2012: A Bad Years for Baliís Environment

Bali Academics and Environmentalists Question Baliís Provincial Governments Commitment to the Environment

(1/4/2013) According to a report in the Bali Post, Bali’s beaches, forests and mountains are suffering grave environmental damage. According to that report, beachfront has been sub-divided among outside investors; rubbish negatively impacts on both tourism and agriculture; and the foothills of Bali most sacred mountain are being excavated and hauled away. In Bali, sadly, money takes priority over all-else; the results are devastating on the environment.

The Bali Post also cites the case of the Tahura Mangrove Forest in South Bali – an area covering 102.22 hectares – now leased for 55 years to a private interest. The newspaper claims Bali is at its very lowest point in the struggle to save the island’s environment. For these reasons, a number of environmentalist and academics view 2012 was a year of unprecedented environmental degradation.

The chairman of post-graduate program in environmental studies at Bali’s Udayana University, Professor Made Sudiana Mahendra Ph.D., is warning that provincial slogans for a “clean and green” Bali are far from a reality. Plastic wastes remain out of control. “We are waiting for a concrete action plan for 2013,” said Mahendra.

He alleges that environmental programs that are now underway in Bali are being done with less than full commitment, resulting predictably in inadequate results and an inability to overcome many obstacles due to issues of training, manpower, limited budgets, poor supervision and a lack of proper law enforcement against violators of environmental regulations

Other areas of concern, Mahendra said, are the rapid increase in Bali’s population and the boom in tourism accommodation and residential complexes now underway with little or no reference to the island’s carrying capacity.

According to a study undertaken by Udayana University, the carrying capacity of Bali’s environment is being overwhelmed in all regions of the island with the exception of Karangasem, Klungkung and Bangli.

Bali also faces a water crisis. Bali is experiencing a severe water deficit in the regions of Badung, Gianyar, Buleleng and Denpasar with water now being siphoned off from four inland lakes to compensat for an adequate water supply for the island. These lakes, however, are being impacted by sedimentation, limiting their ability to serve as fresh water reservoirs, according to Professor I Wayan Arthana, the chairman of the Environmental Research Center (PPLH) at Udayana University.

He went on to explain how run off of water from fertilized agricultural lands is increasing the nutrient level of Bali’s lakes, further adding to the growing pollution of Bali’s lake system. “If the four lakes of Bali become shallower that is the same with losing half of Bali’s fresh water reservoirs; if these lakes eventually dry up, Bali will find itself in an acute water crisis,” warned Arthana.

Meanwhile, the chairman of Bali’s Friends of the Earth (WALHI), Wayan “Gendo” Suardana endorses the view that 2012 was a terrible year for Bali’s environment, a situation he blames on the government's lack of commitment to green issues. He views the government as being overly-supportive of investors, too ready to approve new projects and permits in the rush to expand the tax base.

Of particular concern to Gendo is the Governor’s decision to lease the Tahura Mangrove Forest area to a private company, a move he sees as threatening a key environmental buffer zone esential for tidal shifts and stving off the threat of tsunamis. “The policy giving the permit for Tahura is completely in opposition to the moratorium on the building of new tourist accommodation issued by the Governor of Bali,” said Gendo.

An environmentalist and academic from the National Education University (Undiskas) in Bali, Agung Wardana, views the paradigm of environmental protection in operation from Bali’s provincial government as a simple case of economic interests being placed before ecological considerations. In other words, according to Wardana, the government will only move to protect the environment when there is a direct economic reward in doing so. He cites as an example the case of the Tahura Mangrove Forest where the government is seeking to profit from environmental preservation.

He cynically describes the provincial governments current “Clean and Green” and “Bali Free of Plastic” campaigns as political ploys, seeking only to publicly position Bali’s leaders as environmentally conscious.

Wardana linked the failure of "Bali’s Clean and Green" program to the lack of a supporting infrastructure for the disposal of trash and the provision of a public transportation system that is safe, secure, fast and inexpensive.