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Reclaiming Baliís Future

Deputy Tourism Minister Joins Environmentalist in Condemning Plans for Reclamation Project in Baliís Benoa Bay

(7/20/2013) The Bali Daily (The Jakarta Post) reports that a senior member of the Indonesian Tourism Ministry who is a well-respected Balinese Tourism figure has joined the growing chorus opposing plans backed by Governor Made Mangku Pastika to turn protected mangrove areas in Benoa Bay into a tourism complex.

I Gde Pitana Brahmanda, who now serves as a Deputy Minister for Resource Development at the Ministry of Tourism and the Creative Economy, has lambasted the proposed project, insisting the development would hurt Bali. Pitana said: “Southern Bali is already overcrowded and overdeveloped. Physical development there should be stopped. Now’s the time to improve the quality of tourism services.”

Pitana once served as a professor in tourism studies at Bali’s Udayana University before becoming head of the Bali Tourism Service (Kadiparda) and, later, a Deputy Minister.

Sounding a warning being echoed by many quarters in Bali, Pitana said Bali’s southern regions is overdeveloped and buckling under the strain of inadequate carrying capacity. He called for new developments in Bali to be diverted to northern or eastern portions of the island.

Citing problems in traffic congestion, safety and security, water pollution, trash disposal, and water and electrical shortages - Pitana repeated the call for an absolute moratorium on new hotel and accommodation development in South Bali.

Registering his objection to the reclamation of Benoa Bay by a company reportedly back by Indonesian businessman Tommy Winata, Pitana added: “I’m sure there will be many impacts following the reclamation project. Not only the direct impact of the reclamation, but also the impact of the development post-reclamation.”

Addressing environmentalists’ concerns that the reclamation project will cause irreversible damage to Bali’s ecology, Pitana said: “Many experts say the reclamation will cause changes in sea currents, damage of mangrove forests, the sedimentation of Benoa seaport and many others.”

Pitana refuted claims made by Governor Pastika that the Benoa Bay development plan formed part of the Masterplan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development (MP3EI) emphasizing that, in any case, any project of this scale must be preceded by a careful environmental impact study

Environmental Outcry

Separately, the chairman of Bali Friends of the Earth (WALHI-Bali), Wayan Suardana, has called on the Governor to immediately revoke a letter of recommendation given to a private investor to reclaim large tracts of Benoa Bay and surrounding mangroves.

Despite claims made to the press made only weeks ago that the Governor knew little or nothing of plans to reclaim parts of Benoa Bay, it now appears clear that Pastika had, in fact, issued a letter of recommendation on December 26, 2013, in support of the project.

In calling for the revocation of the recommendation, Suardana said: “The gubernatorial letter contradicts the 1945 Constitution as stipulated by the Constitutional Court. The governor should revoke the letter soon because it is unlawful. 
In 2010, the Constitutional Court revoked several articles of the law used by the Governor in making his recommendation, removing the right to commercialize coastal zones. 

The fact that the gubernatorial letter referred to a law that has been revoked means the letter is against the law,” Suardana insisted.

The governor’s recommendation granted to PT Tirta Wahana Bali International gives a 50-year concession to build luxury hotels, and F1 racecourse, hospital, entertainment centers, apartments and a theme park on reclaimed land.

Pastika claimed his recommendation was based on a feasibility study conducted by Bali’s Udayana University, a study experts from the University claim has not been completed and remains incomplete. Moreover, University officials also insist that no decision on the project should be made until a detailed environmental impact study is completed. According to the University , the environmental impact study on the project has yet to even be commenced.

The proposed project under the banner of PT Tirta Wahana Bali International includes three additional investors: PT Bangun Segitiga Mas, PT Wijaya Property and PT Garuda Jaya.

Indonesian businessman Tommy Winata’s involvement in a project branded as destructive to Bali’s mangrove forest casts a disingenuous light on the much publicized trip of Real Madrid player Cristiano Ronaldo to Bali and his promotion as a Mangrove Ambassador by the Artha Graha Foundation – a foundation founded by Winata. During that visit, Winata, Ronaldo and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono posed for the press planting trees in the mangrove forest now slated for partial reclamation by the Benoa Bay Project.

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