Bali’s ‘subak’ farms to be named UNESCO World Heritage Site
The traditional subak farming and irrigation system of Bali will be recognized by UNESCO on its list of World Heritage Sites, an official says.
UNESCO’s decision to include subak on its list of items of cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity is expected to be formalized at the organization’s next meeting in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in June, according to a statement released by Deputy Education and Culture Minister for Culture Wiendu Nuryanti.
Bali Culture Agency head I Ketut Suastika said on Sunday that he received the information from a senior official of the Education and Culture Ministry on Sunday. “It really surprised us. We feel proud”.
Meanwhile, the secretary of the provincial team for UNESCO World Heritage Sites, I Wayan Windia, was equally enthusiastic. “We feel very happy about the progress, as we have been waiting for acknowledgment for over 12 years. We hope it will be fixed in June without any problems.”
Four sites were proposed by the Indonesian government for inclusion on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites: the Batukaru mountain reserve in Tabanan, the Pakerisan watershed in Gianyar, the Taman Ayun royal palace in Badung and Lake Batur in Bangli.
Batukaru boasts a well-protected forest and mountain revered as one of the six kahyangan jagat (world temples) by Balinese Hindus. The best realization of subak are the vast and well-kept terraced rice fields of Jatiluwih village.
The chairman of the Indonesian Tourism Industry Association’s (GIPI) Bali chapter, Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya said that UNESCO’s acknowledgement of subak farming would be a boon for the local tourism industry and help preserve the practice as a central pillar of Balinese culture.
“It will drive Bali’s image as a cultural tourism destination in the world. Many tourists will come to the area to see the tradition,” Wijaya said.
Separately, Nyoman Sugita, a member of Subak Gunung Sari, a local farmers’ group, said he was pleased. “We are really excited by this acknowledgment. Hopefully, it will make our village famous throughout the world.”
However, Sugita demanded that the government pay more attention to the plight of farmers. “We hope that the government can make a regulation that gives more economic benefits to the farmers, instead of only attracting more tourists, where the benefits is only enjoyed by investors or the local government.”
I Wayan Windia said that UNESCO’s decision should prompt the government to preserve the tradition by aiding farmers. “The government should issue a concrete policy to empower farmers,” Windia said.
Wijaya echoed Windia’s remarks, “We’re ready to help empower the farmers. They could develop ecotourism in their village. The tourism industry could also buy their products. We’re ready to mediate.”
Subak has been threatened by the rapidly growing tourism industry in Bali. More than 1,000 hectares of rice paddies are converted into housing and tourist facilities every year, as tourism has pushed aside the once-powerful agriculture sector.