A Call to Arms Against Perpres No 51/2014

Amid all the tensions and media coverage surrounding the upcoming presidential election, the current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono passed the executive order, Perpres No 51/2014, that could became the legal basis of Benoa Bay reclamation program.

Just to refresh your memory, this plan propose a massive landscape makeover of Benoa Bay area using land fill (megatons worth of dirts to be dumped there), creating no less than +/- 800 hectares of new terrain.  The reclamation plan has received so much resistance since its conception, especially from environmental activists, fearing for ecological disasters to the area’s natural habitat that may result from it.

The plan intermingles not only environmental issues and tri hita karana values but also economics and politics, very rapidly. What makes the plan more controversial than it is lies on the interests that seem to drive this plan to the open in the first place.

Investors, most notably, PT. Tirta Wahana Bali International are eyed suspiciously by people with even the slightest environmental awareness.

What makes thing complicated is, this reclamation plan started off as a solution for people living on the bay. They are concerned with the state of Pulau Pudut, a small island just off the bay that could serve not only as tsunami breaker, but also for building site for health center, schools and conversion center for sea turtles. This small island is torn off piece by piece with heavy abrasion each year.

Instead of taking matter into its own hand, Bali Regional Government (Pemprov Bali) appointed private company to tackle this problem. In come PT. Tirta Wahana Bali International. The solution they offered is what we know today as the reclamation plan.

One big problem to this seemingly perfect plan was, it’s illegal according to the law, in this case, Perpres No 45/2011, which clearly stated Benoa Bay as maritime conservation area that called for a strict no-building zone.

Those who opposed the idea of reclamation plan suspected the investor has a hidden agenda other than offering a solution concerning Pulau Pudut. Eight hundred hectares of new terrain is a huge real estate. If anything, it creates promising business opportunity.

One last twist came in when Bali Governor, Mr. Made Mangku released an official endorsement for the plan, claiming it to be based on a recent study from the ecological research team of Udayana University.

At that point, all hell break loose. The investors made a really smart plan to boot, by inviting Christiano Ronaldo, an ever-popular figure for Indonesians, to act as an ambassador for mangrove conservation. Such conservation only possible if the reclamation takes place. No less creative, they managed to invite none other that the President himself, SBY, to sign the “Save Mangrove Petition” and pose for the camera with Ronaldo at the same occasion.

It was clear that those who oppose the plan are on the losing side when SBY issued the decree last week. The decree reduced the conservation area to a third its former size, replacing it with tourism area and economic zone among other things, hence paving the way for the reclamation plan.

Benoa Bay Zoning Difference By 2011 Perpres and 2014 Perpres

The Zoning Difference Between Perpres No 45/2011 and Perpres No. 51/2014

Spearheaded by environmental activist Wayan “Gendo” Suardana and his ForBali organization, Greenpeace and other NGOs, and supported by Bali luminaries, such as Jerinx from Bali’s punk rock band Superman Is Dead, those who opposed the plan marched calling to SBY to annul the decree.

Perpres No 51/2014 is considered a sucker punch by many. It was made at the end of SBY administration, in a rather sneaky move while people were distracted by the battle between Prabowo and Jokowi to presidential seat and the ongoing World Cup event. Earlier this month (June 2014), SBY also just extend the concession contract for Freeport’s operation in Papua until 2041.

As far as Benoa Bay reclamation program, and the problematic Perpres No 51/2014, we still need to see where it’s all lead to. No one’s want ecological disaster potentially caused by terrain engineering as massive as this one. On the other hand, economic windfall that it could generate to fuel Bali’s future economy is also promising. Win-win solution, although unlikely to be reached, is worth the struggle. Finally, this occasion should be treated not only as a cause against something, but as a call to arms for a better Bali.

Image sources: http://m.forbali.org/ & http://www.mongabay.co.id/2014/06/13/sby-terbitkan-perpres-reklamasi-teluk-benoa-forbali-layangkan-protes/