Patrons of the Arts Take a Stand Against Bali Reclamation Project
[caption id="attachment_358946" align="aligncenter" width="780"] Balinese men plant mangrove tree seeds during a tree planting campaign in Benoa, Bali, on Dec. 21, 2011. (EPA Photo/Made Nagi)[/caption]
Jakarta. ?A bay belongs to waves, and waves belong to boats; boats belong to twilight, and twilight is the right of the heart.?
The verse is part of a poem written and read by philosophy lecturer Rocky Gerung to open ?Puisi Bumi? (?Earth Poems?), a poetry-reading event organized by the Balinese Forum Against Reclamation (ForBali) in Jakarta on Wednesday.
The reading ? attended by academics, artists, writers, musicians and students ? was aimed at raising public awareness about the planned reclamation of Benoa Bay in Nusa Dua, Bali.
Rocky said he participated in the event to voice his support for environmental communities that have been marching on Bali and Jakarta?s streets to urge the government to abandon the project.
?My poem voices my resistance against the reclamation of the bay. It simply tells that a bay is a curve that our Earth possesses. If it?s filled up with soil, it will lose its curves,? Rocky told the Jakarta Globe after his reading in Kemang, South Jakarta.
?Our earth has the right to have these curves, like a woman who wants to have a beautiful body or a man who wishes to have a six pack,? he added figuratively.
His and other artists? works read out at the event were part of ?cultural fight? to shift the public?s attention to environmental issues, particularly those concerning Benoa Bay.
?We?re talking about the rights of nature. Humans have exploited nature far enough. People must be aware of this matter,? Rocky said.
Other renowned litterateurs and musicians participating in ?Earth Poems? included poet and scriptwriter Agus Noor, writer and journalist Putu Fajar Arcana, filmmaker and writer Djenar Maesa Ayu, author and journalist Okky Madasari, musician Djerinx, actress and activist Melani Soebono, and writer and philosopher Tommy F. Awuy.
At the conclusion of each poem, its writer shouted, ?Tolak reklamasi!? (Reject the reclamation) in protest of the commercial development of Benoa Bay.
?If the project continues at the expense of the local people, then we are afraid it will serve as a dangerous precedent for other places across the country. We have witnessed too many cases in which locals are sacrificed on behalf of money-driven developers,? said novelist Okky, who read a poem that channeled the hardship of those who have had their land ripped away from them for commercial use.
Coordinator of ForBali?s Jakarta chapter Saraswati Dewi added that these readings were aimed at providing residents of the capital with better insights into the controversy surrounding the Benoa Bay reclamation, as well as to gather public support in the group?s call for protection of conservation areas against industrial expansion.
Benoa Bay was originally part of Bali?s conservation zones, but under a presidential regulation signed by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono earlier this year, it was changed into a buffer zone ? a status that would make the area vulnerable to commercial development.
Prior to that, Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika issued in December 2012 a permit for Tirta Wahana Bali Internasional, a property unit of tycoon Tommy Winata?s Arta Graha network, to use the area for a development project.
Following protests made by local community and environmental groups alike, Made revoked the permit, but later issued in September 2013 another permit allowing TWBI to perform a feasibility study for the project.
Yogyakarta-based Agus, who read his flash fiction ?One Day in the Life of a Former President? at Wednesday?s event called the regulation a blunder and held Yudhoyono responsible for allowing TWBI to proceed with its plans.
?The decree is a political blunder and we must reject it,? he said, adding that similar projects have been happening elsewhere, including Yogyakarta.
?That is a general portrait of our country; wealthy businessmen don?t take into consideration the fate of the local people at all,? Agus said.
?What is felt by the Balinese is also felt by the people of Yogyakarta. Rapid development has affected their lives. For instance, people living around a hotel have found that their water supply has suddenly dried out. This is a real impact of uncontrolled capitalism.?
[caption id="attachment_358947" align="aligncenter" width="780"] The Balinese Forum Against Reclamation (ForBali) on Wednesday staged a poetry reading to raise awareness about the planned reclamation project for Benoa Bay in Nusa Dua, Bali, and the harrowing effects it would have on the environment.?(Photo courtesy of ForBali)[/caption]
?Not a threat?
TWBI, meanwhile, has continued to defend the reclamation. The company organized a seminar in Denpasar on Monday featuring some environmental experts who have given the controversial project their green light.
Dietrich Geoffrey Bengen, a professor in coastal and marine ecology at the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), believed the reclamation would revitalize the environment, rather than harm it.
He cited an example of how the bay?s Pudut island continued to erode away due to the increasingly powerful waves. Then there is also the issue of natural sedimentation, making it more difficult for local fishermen to sail in the area.
?It?s getting more difficult now for seawater to reach the mangroves. The [sediment] runoff must be flushed [out of the bay],? Dietrich said, according to news portal Mongabay.co.id.
Buffer islands included in the reclamation project proposal could address the issue, mitigating strong waves that would further aggravate the coastal abrasion and erosion, he added.
?If the reclamation project can be done, fishermen can enjoy many benefits, such as becoming guides for fishing tours,? the professor suggested.
Herman Wahyudi, a geo-egineering professor from Surabaya?s November 10 Institute of Technology, or ITS, added the public has become ?allergic? to the term ?reclamation.?
He said while it was true reclamation projects in the past had been conducted recklessly, leaving behind environmental destruction at the completion of the projects, this was no longer the case, especially with TWBI at the helm.
The project?s proposal takes into account technical details and potential impacts of the reclamation, including the plan to create several small islands and carefully built canals to allow controlled intrusion of seawater into the bay, allowing it to reach mangrove trees planted along the original coast.
The mangroves will be completely unharmed, Herman assured.
?Under the plan, the reclaimed islands will be high enough above the surface of the ocean that its buildings and supporting facilities would provide guests and residents with sufficient shelter from a potential tsunami. The area is indeed in a tsunami-prone zone,? he added.
Speaking at the same seminar, Ikram M. Sangaji, head of the Denpasar office of the Coastal and Marine Resources Empowerment Agency (BPSPL), said he saw no harm in the development of coastal areas, as long as they were sustainable.
?Resources must have economic value. The environment must provide added value [to the local community],? Ikram said.
TWBI director Heru Budi Wasesa claimed the reclamation project would not harm the environment and at the same time would benefit the locals.
?If we receive our permit and go ahead with the project, but in doing so somehow destroy the environment and marginalize the local people, I will be the first to disperse TWBI,? Heru vowed.
TWBI commissioner Marvin Lieano revealed the company?s Rp 30 trillion ($2.4 billion) project in Benoa included the construction of a trade and convention center, as well as a school, a university and an international-class hospital.
?During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation [summit held last year], all delegations brought their own medical teams; foreigners don?t trust the quality [of our hospitals],? Marvin said.
Beyond the environment
ForBali?s Saraswati brushed away claims of commercial benefits raised during Monday?s meeting in Bali?s capital, saying the Bay should not be seen as a commodity,
?[The environment] is not just a commodity. It is more than that. In Bali, the sea plays a large role in the island?s cultural and religious rituals,? Saraswati said.
?We will continue to voice our rejection of reclamation efforts, in Bali and elsewhere. We are staunchly against the corrupt dealings between local officials and greedy investors.?
?Earth Poems? participant Fajar urged government officials to view Bali from a wider perspective, adding that changes brought on by the reclamation of Benoa Bay would severely damage the area?s already fragile ecosystem.
?We also need to look at Bali as one ecosystem; severely altering one aspect of it could trigger changes throughout the rest of the island,? Fajar said. ?Not just physical changes, but potentially changes in Bali?s traditions, such as the ?palemahan? and ?pawongan? rituals.
?These are an essential part of the Balinese people?s religious efforts to connect with nature,? Fajar added.
?So when a company exploits the island?s nature, through reclamation and over-development, the impact is more than ecological. Bali?s religious and cultural systems will feel the effects as well.?
Fajar emphasized, however, that his stance against the Benoa reclamation project did not represent his views on the development of Bali in general.
The island?s tourism sector, for example, continues to provide economic benefits for its local people, including those who earn a living as hotel, restaurant or souvenir shop owners, he said.
?Bali must not stop developing itself. But on the other hand, it must also preserve that delicate balance with nature. For now, Bali doesn?t need another resort or a casino in Benoa.
?Developers may argue that the reclamation will bring financial benefits for the local people living around the bay ? but too much [ecological] sacrifice is needed for that.?
?Change must be controlled. We are not against change, but when it is far too extreme and would likely ruin the Balinese people?s way of life, it simply shouldn?t be allowed,? he added.
Participants of ?Earth Poems? called on President Joko Widodo to annul the decree signed by his predecessor.
?We know that the [Bonoa Bay] issue is not on the president?s priority list, but we hope he will consider the consequences and take firm action,? writer Djenar said.
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?Refineries are needed when the global crude price hikes, and we don?t have the supply. Therefore our refineries need to be improved,? Agung said.
Darmawan Prasodjo, another member, said based on data from Pertamina, current refineries can produce fuel of 1.04 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.
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?The operational cost keeps on going up, while the productivity decreases, which makes the per barrel cost high,? Darmawan said.
Pertamina?s vice president for corporate communications Ali Mundakir said Pertamina?s refineries can only process sweet and light crude oils, which are expensive in the market.
Pertamina had planned refinery developments so that the refineries can process cheaper sour and heavy crude oil to help lower raw material costs.
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