West Australians are flocking to their favourite island holiday destination in record numbers but can it cope’? The number of West Australians who have packed their bags and headed for Bali has quadrupled in the last five years, with over 385,000 visiting in the past 12 months. They are not the only ones with international tourists joining millions of lndonesians now choosing to holiday there. With the increasing numbers comes increasing pressure on water supplies, infrastructure and waste management and environmentalists are warning there�s a crisis looming.
When Bali’s Governor, l Made MangkuPastika, imposed a moratorium at the stan of last year on all new developments in south Bali, environmental groups rejoiced. Research from the local Udayana University showed supply was far outstripping demand for hotel rooms, with an excess of almost 10,000 rooms.
Clearly, it made no sense to build more but in a relatively short time, it seems the tune has changed. The Governor has temporarily lifted the moratorium to allow for the construction of a mega project, dubbed the Bali international Park. The venue is being built for the 2013 APEC summit with an estimated price tag of around $280 million US, most of which will be funded by lndonesia’s central government which is pushing for it to go ahead. The BIP is set to be built on a 250—hectare greenbelt area in Jimbaran.
lt will include a convention and exhibition centre, luxurious stand-alone villas for 26 heads of state attending the summit and a five star, 200 room hotel for the accompanying delegates. lt will also boast an international health clinic, art galleries and food courts. Once the conference is over, it will be turned into a tourism precinct. Governor Pastika has defended the plans.
“This is in the framework of projecting a good image for Indonesia, especially Bali,” he told The Jakarta Globe. But, that image may be changing with a recent article in ‘Time’ magazine dubbing Bali as a potential ‘holiday from hell` because of its problems with infrastructure, waste management and traffic. The head of the West Australian—based Indonesia Institute, Ross Taylor, says Bali has become a victim of its own success. “There are problems with over-development on the beachfront, roads are chaotic, power from Java is unreliable and the water system is literally falling apart,” he said.
“We take town and urban planning for granted in Australia but, in Indonesia and in particular Bali, this has been almost unheard of. “Getting building approval in Kuta and Legian _ today is usually more about who is given an incentive to approve the development rather than about what is suitable and appropriate for the area.”
Environmentalist WayanSuardana, from the Indonesian environment forum known as Walhi, is leading the charge against the BIP. He says building more conference facilities makes no sense when the island already has enough.
Suardana says the amount of water the BIP will consume is staggering, at about 669,000 litres a day; that’s equivalent to the needs of approximately 4,500 residents in south Kuta. He says the island is already struggling to meet current demand. “Symptoms of the water crisis are now seen more often with a lot of areas experiencing drought.” And, he says the site slated for the BIP project has been used to grow crops like rice, taro and corn so if it goes ahead, farmers will be shoved off the land and lose their income.
“The impact on farmers is quite large considering they could no longer farm nor have they been provided with other land to farm or any other alternative after eviction,” he said. Bali is also groaning under the weight of a big increase in population. Last year’s census shows, minus tourists and migrants, ,BaIi’s population swelled to 3.9 million, up 20 per cent in a decade and far exceeding a supposed ideal of 2.5 million. Foreign arrivals, at 2.5 million a year, are on top of this number along with the growing domestic tourist market of about 5 million visitors a year.
The pressure is mounting but some non-government organizations have got together to launch the Bali Clean and Green program which is aimed at dealing with the island’s rubbish and waste issues. There’s also a revamp of the international airport planned and a toll road linking the airport to Nusa Dua being built for APEC to ease traffic congestion. Ross Taylor says if not enough is done to solve Bali‘s problems, tourism will suffer.
“Without urban and regional planning, we will see more pollution on the beaches, collapsing and unsafe water systems, increased blackouts as power systems fail and an even greater degree of traffic congestion,” he said.
“This is not good as in the end this will scare off the tourists as Bali will become a less than desirable place to visit which would be a shame as it is such a unique, a lovely island.” Suardana says uncontrolled development is ruining the island and strict government laws not only need to be introduced, they need to be enforced.
He says if not, the island’s main income source, tourism, will inevitably be hit hard. Bali generates about 30 per cent of lndonesia’s tourist revenue estimated at $3.5 billion US a year. Suardana says authorities need to realize that the environment is at the heart of its main industry, with many people attracted to Bali’s greenery and beaches.
“This will be a bleak future if we do not regulate development from now to match the capacity of its resources and to establish concrete plans to further preserve our resources and environment,” he said. Suardana is also concerned that the lifting of the moratorium may have let the genie out of the bottle. He is worried it could pave the way for the development of more mega projects which will come at the environment’s expense.