News / Africa

Speedy Growth in Indonesia’s Bali Risks Damaging Island’s Allure

Ferry boats cross Bali Strait to carry Indonesians to Ketapang port, East Java, from Gilimanuk port, West Bali, Indonesia (File Photo - August 27, 2011).
Ferry boats cross Bali Strait to carry Indonesians to Ketapang port, East Java, from Gilimanuk port, West Bali, Indonesia (File Photo - August 27, 2011).
Solenn Honorine

Indonesia's scenic island Bali will be the setting for the East Asia summit in November, of which President Obama is expected to attend. The country’s premier tourist destination is seeking to capitalize on business tourism after a difficult decade marked by two terrorist attacks and the SARS and bird flu epidemics.


In Kendran village, in the center of Bali, everything is green. Delicate rice sprouts peek from terraced fields. Dense thickets of banana trees encroach the side of a road. Shaded gardens decorate the entrance of temples and houses. But despite its lush appearance, water in the village is in short supply.

Made Ruta, one of Kendran’s rice farmers, explains that the public water distribution company PDAM owns two of the three water sources located on the village’s land. He says the local government demanded it prioritize the nearby tourist town of Ubud for water distribution. Thus, he says, for the past five years there has not been enough water during the dry season to properly irrigate all rice fields.

Water crisis

Environmentalist Wayan Gendo Suarna, who chairs the Bali chapter of the Indonesian NGO Walhi, warns that a water crisis looms.

Wayan says that although consumption is highest in the South of the island, where the tourist facilities are located, there are no water resources there. Shortages now exist in the rural and mountainous North, closer to the water sources. He says local policies dictate that the tourism industry, which contributes most to the island’s economy, should come before the needs of rice farmers.

Made Ruta, the Kendran farmer, says the situation is unfortunate.

Nowadays, he says, there’s not much harmony left in the village. In the peak of the dry season farmers may creep at night into their neighbor’s fields to steal water. Because of this problem and the lure of better jobs in the tourist industry, many farmers are tempted to sell their land.

Bali Fokus

Bayu Susila, head of the environment NGO Bali Fokus, says that this is felt throughout Bali.

“In my village, all young people now are working in the cities," said Bayu. "So only the old people, the old generation lives in the village. So when there is a ceremony they come back to the village for one, two or three days and then go back to the city where they can find a better life. So it’s affecting our way of life.”

Bali’s Hindu culture and unique agrarian lifestyle is the island’s main tourist attraction. So Bayu warns that the erosion of the traditional way of life could have dire consequences.

“As a Balinese, I don’t want new investors coming to Bali," said Bayu. "I suggest: please bring your capital elsewhere, to the other provinces, please develop there.The more capital you bring to Bali, the more people will come to Bali, and we’ll be buried there. Because once there is no local traditions, who will care?”

Busy Bali

Bali is a small island, about the size of the tiny U.S. state of Rhode Island. With more than three-and-a-half million residents and about two million tourists a year, officials say Bali is severely overcrowded.

In southern Bali's busy streets, traffic jams choke the towns. Waste is so poorly managed that during the rainy season, when rivers swell, garbage dumped throughout the island end up layering the long, white sand beaches.

Ngurah Wijaya, chairman of the Bali Tourism Board says there is not enough electricity, water and roads to accommodate the island’s successful industry.

“Bali has nothing. The only work we can do here is tourism, so it has to continue," said Wijaya. "We’ve proposed to the government, and the government agreed, to have a moratorium on building new accommodation in Bali. The government should build again the infrastructure in Bali such as electricity, water, accessibility and garbage.


But there is no indication the government will impose a moratorium any time soon. A huge conference center is scheduled to be built soon to accommodate a 2013 APEC summit. Several other big projects are scattered throughout the south of the island. A large Indonesian chain is building another resort on the luxurious compound of Nusa Dua on Geger Beach.

At the base of a high pile of rubble that creeps onto the beach, an extended Balinese family is attending a ceremony. They all gather once every six months to worship the spirits of their ancestors, who they believe are represented by a holy rock that barely peeks from the high tide. Soon, access to this beach will be restricted to the hotel’s clients. But family members say they do not mind.

They say that they are happy there is yet another resort to be built here. The more tourists the better, they say, as they bring cash and good jobs along with them. So, as long as the hotel management lets them hold their colorful ceremony every six months, as has already been agreed, they welcome the new resort with open arms.

The successful tourism industry has made Bali one the richest provinces in Indonesia. Although few Balinese are willing to slow down the pace of development, there are some who worry that the growth may eventually overwhelm the natural beauty that drew people here in the first place.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs