Ecotourism hampered by zoning uncertainty
The plan to develop 160 villages into ecotourism centers may be hampered by zoning uncertainties.
The controversial 2009 Zoning and Spatial Planning Bylaw, which offers stronger environmental protection, was rejected by all regency-level regions on the resort island. Consequently, none of the regions now have clear or legally binding zoning regulations.
Ecotourism entrepreneur A.A. Made Sudiadnyana said that ecotourism was heavily dependant on the natural landscape and integrity of the destination. A lack of zoning regulation meant that the natural integrity of a destination could be easily compromised by investors.
“I have often been disappointed when escorting tourists into ecotourism villages and found that the natural landscape had changed significantly,” he said.
He offered Beraban village in Tabanan as an example of the changes.
“Initially, there was a plan to develop the village into an ecotourism village. Local farmers would build simple resting shacks in the middle of the rice fields. The visiting tourists could rest in those shacks while enjoying local fruits and the landscape,” he said.
However, the lack of government protection and clear zoning policy has seen investors freely entering the village and convincing farmers to sell their land. What was once a vast landscape of rice fields now has become cluster upon cluster of luxurious villas populated by expatriates.
“The integrity of the natural landscape and the protection of the land [from conversion] are two vital elements that influence the survival of ecotourism,” he said.
Over the last four years, Sudiadnyana has established cooperation with local villages in Tabanan to build ecotourism packages. He provided the visitors and the four-wheel drive vehicles while the villages provided the landscape, resting places and meals. The villages include Megati, Gadungan and Gempinis, which all boasted lush coffee plantations and vast terraced rice fields.
The 2009 Zoning and Spatial Planning Bylaw offers stronger environmental protections. It includes articles that specifically prohibit the construction of buildings on critical natural features such as on cliffs and riverbanks as well as on the shoreline. The bylaw also designates a no-building zone around the island’s major temples. The bylaw was supported by Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika and the island’s religious leaders and environmental activists. Regents, particularly of Badung and Gianyar, rejected the bylaw and accused it of hindering the flow of investment to their regions. The regents managed to convince the provincial legislative council to revise the bylaw. However, strong public opposition to the revision has caused a political stalemate.
Environmental NGO Wisnu Foundation director I Made Suarnatha said that in most cases the villagers were left out of the zoning development process.
“In those cases, the results clearly did not reflect the wishes and aspirations of the local people,” he said.
Community participation in the development of zoning regulations, he argued, would ensure that the local people’s interests were represented in the regulation. Such representation in turn would naturally earn the regulation the political credibility and support it needed.
The Wisnu Foundation has assisted several villages in Bali for 10 years in developing a responsible form of community-based ecotourism. Those villages — Sibetan, Tenganan, Pelaga and Ceningan — have formed an alliance known as the Village Ecotourism Network (JED).
The provincial administration plans to develop 160 villages into ecotourism centers. This year, the central government provided funding to 20 of those villages. Indonesia’s ecotourism centers have steadily
increased from 104 villages in 2009 to 214 in 2010 and 569 in 2011.