National

Big project erases `dream'
from Dreamland

Early this year, a group of 37 warung (food stall) owners at Dreamland Beach in Pecatu had to vacate their beachside businesses and relocate elsewhere.

The clearance of the beach was ordered by PT Bali Pecatu Graha (BPG), a development company that wants to give the area a multimillion-rupiah rebirth as an investment haven for local and international corporations.

The development of the 400-hectare Pecatu Indah Resort site has caused alarm among some Pecatu villagers who work at the beach.

Once a laid-back secret among nudists and surfers, Dreamland became one of the most popular beaches in Bali in recent years, spawning a thriving, informal service industry on the cliff-side.

"I find it a pity that our warung, built in traditional Balinese style, have all been demolished. People used to love spending their time here, far away from the overpriced and stylish hotels," said I Made Jenar, manager of the new Dreamland Warung.

For eight years, he owned Boy's Warung right on the beach, serving up barbeques and seafood dinners for people from all over the world.

Most of the 37 warung were built without permission during the construction interruption between 1998 and 2006, when BPG was hit by the fallout of the Asian financial crisis and the terrorist attacks.

They have now been replaced by a strip of 20 small concrete shops being built on a raised platform along a dry riverbed that leads to the beach. BPG, owned by Tommy Soeharto, son of the former Indonesian president, has provided locals with legal papers for the properties.

All the former warung owners are now organized under the Desa Pecatu Adat.

They employ 50 people, mainly from Pecatu, and have full power over their shops.

"Our company invested Rp 3 billion for the construction, water and electricity supplies and sanitation facilities in the new warung, and now they're not being maintained properly. Most of the shops are still closed; we are disappointed," said Arturo Seril, BPG project manager.

The place looks uninhabited and no goods or food are on display for sale, although visi-tors can still buy drinks and ice cream.

"We're still figuring out what we want to sell to visitors, and the people have to undergo training because this is a new situation now; we lack experience and are looking for ideas from Geger Beach," Jenar said.

He added Geger Beach had experienced the same relocation woes and managed to build a new business among local people.

Another hot topic is the name of the beach. It has been renamed since the original launch of the project by BPG to New Kuta Beach.

The beach's former and still widely popular name, Dreamland Beach, was given to it by Australian surfers during the construction pause. People approaching the beach are still welcomed by a big Dreamland Beach banner.

"We will demolish the banner as soon as possible, because we renamed the beach; it is now New Kuta Beach, which has nothing to do with dreams. This is reality now." Seril said.

Many locals are afraid of losing customers, and report that they already see fewer visitors during peak seasons.

"People used to come here because it was a romantic, natural place with cheap food and accommodation," Jenar stressed.

The developers are currently building a four-story beachfront restaurant, which will include a spa, bars and clubs.

"I was shocked when I saw the beach today after two years of being abroad," said visitor Nani Clark Tjokrosuharto.

"I don't know if Bali needs more clubs; it is slowly losing its natural and cultural spirit, which is what draws people here."

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