The construction of a new toll road connecting southern Denpasar with Ngurah Rai International Airport and Nusa Dua will cost the island 2 hectares of pristine mangrove forest.
Mangroves are havens for endemic biodiversity and natural barriers against coastal erosion.
The planned toll road is the central government’s solution to the chronic traffic that haunts Bali’s sole expressway.
The gridlock often sees drivers and visitors taking up to three hours to reach Ubud from the airport. The new road is also one of two major infrastructure projects in preparation for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in 2013.
The other project is a sprawling complex of luxurious accommodations, cultural venues and conference areas. Both projects have drawn strong criticism from local environmental activists.
The potential loss of 2 hectares of mangrove forest moved Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika to ask the central government and the Balinese people to seriously consider the plan and its impact.
“Despite the fact that we do need the road to mitigate the chronic traffic, I believe that further discussion is necessary to review the environmental impact of the planned road,” he said, adding that a clear solution was also needed considering the legal status of the new toll road.
He said the road, a section of which would be built offshore, was not covered by the province’s 2011 bylaw on zoning. The bylaw offered four alternatives to solve the chronic traffic: a bridge connecting Serangan with Tanjung Benoa, a toll road connecting Serangan with Tohpati, a toll road connecting Kuta, Denpasar and Tohpati and a flyover connecting Kuta and Ngurah Rai airport.
“We need to find a legal umbrella so the planned road will not violate the bylaw,” he said Saturday.
The toll road is estimated to cost Rp 14 trillion (US$1.55 billion). The cost would be shouldered by four state-owned enterprises: Jasa Marga, Pelindo III, Angkasa Pura I and the Bali Tourism Development Corporation.
“I hope the negotiations and discussions on the planned toll road will result in a definite decision. Previously, several solutions to the traffic failed to get sufficient support from the local community,” he said.
One proposed solution was an overpass that would connect Kuta’s crowded Dewa Ruci intersection with Ngurah Rai airport.
The central government allocated Rp 25 billion to finance the construction. The Bali administration was tasked with generating cash to finance the necessary purchase of land.
The soaring price of land along the planned overpass’ path and fervent opposition from the local community forced the administration to abandon the plan.
Friends of the Earth (Walhi) Bali chapter head Wayan Suardana said the administration needed to seriously consider the social and environmental impact of the planned road.
“If the road serves the greater good, then its okay, but if they build the road just to serve the APEC delegates then they should reconsider the plan,” he said.
— JP/Ni Komang Erviani