Bali’s environment is facing serious degradation due to over-exploitation by the tourist industry, according to activists.
Garbage, water scarcity, massive land conversions and traffic jams have increased due to the island’s inability to manage tourism, the activists agreed.
Wayan Suardana, a representative of the Indonesia Environmental Forum’s ( Walhi ) Bali chapter, said the problems had resulted from massive development in the tourism industry since the 1990s that had changed from ‘cultural’ to ‘mass tourism’.
“Since then, there has been a massive overtaking of land by investors. Over-exploitation and a policy of ‘selling it cheap’ have taken place,” he said.
Made Suarnatha from the Wisnu Foundation greed, saying: “The problems of garbage, water and land are so obvious. They are the results of years of negligence.”
“The blessing of a tourism industry that has not been well managed can turn into a disaster.”
Tourism’s so-called Midas touch and the island’s limited natural resources have often lead to conflict that only those with power and money could win, he said.
Suarnatha said that land conversions in the small but densely populated island of 3.9 million people had topped 1,000 hectares per year.
“Bali used to be able to achieve self-sufficiency in agriculture. But nowadays, more and more land has been converted into hotels and villas.”
Steve Palmer, the coordinator of Bali Clean and Green Multi-Stakeholder Forum, said that if one hectare was converted to residential or non-agrarian uses there should be a permit control that requires the new landowner to
directly convert a similar size of unused, less desirable land elsewhere in Bali.
Bali has also lost half of its water resources, as 200 out of 400 rivers on the island have dried up, he said.
According to research conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the southern part of Bali would face a water shortage by 2015 due to aggressive groundwater use.
The area would experience a shortfall up to 2,500 liters of clean water per second by 2015, the report said.
The water shortage is the result of massive development, especially the development of new tourist and residential areas.
Suardana said massive tourism development in southern Bali had excessively exploited the island’s main water resources in the center and north.
Garbage was also identified as a crucial problem in Bali, with 75 percent of the 20,000 cubic meters of garbage generated every day left uncollected.
According to the Bali Environment Agency, about 15,000 cubic meters of trash were disposed of along roadsides and at illegal dumps every day.
Organic waste that was left unprocessed at dumps might be dangerous, Palmer said.
He said every household could contribute to waste management by composting their organic waste to reduce trash.
“Compost could be used for their plants, or they can give it to farmers to be used as organic fertilizer.”
The island has also used its charms to become a venue for international conferences and events, many of which take place in its southern part, where a host of luxurious hotels and resorts are located.
A flood of cash from those areas has prompted the clearing of more hills to make more resorts, such as has happened in Jimbaran and Nusa Dua.
Hotels have produced growing mountains of trash while lacking proper waste disposal facilities, according to a recent survey by the provincial environmental agency.
According to the survey, some non-star hotels and restaurants lacked industrial-grade waste disposal and treatment plants as required by regulations.
Palmer said most of the tourist industry was not making sufficient effort to reduce consumption of waste-producing materials.
“They might be following the local requirements currently enforced, but these requirements are well below what is really required to deal with waste issues.”
Responsible high-end tourism operators must use the same intelligence they use to make money and apply that to disposing waste in an environmentally responsible way, he said.