A Thought For Bali
Bali has changed a lot over the years as a consequence of its successful tourism industry. What once were idyllic is now chaotic and abundant rice paddies and green fertile countryside are now fighting for their very existence.
It used to be a pleasure to drive around Bali and see only traditional houses and Mom & Pop stores lining the road. The mountains and seashores were unhindered in the distance. Now you see mostly mini marts, car dealerships, spas and shops selling the same handicraft products. Remember when Seminyak and Canggu had their share of rice paddies interspersed with restaurants shaded by palm trees, and ox-drawn carts slowly making their way along the small roads? Sanur was still a laid back, elegant resort town with small, intimate cafés, and the drive to Nusa Dua was an adventure in solitude.
As the tourism industry grew, the need for accommodations skyrocketed. Life sustaining lush, green rice paddies and palm trees gave way to hotels, restaurants, shops and even malls, with the miles of previously unspoiled beaches now fronted by luxury resorts, largely inaccessible. Villas, private or commercial, sprang up in other prime locations. There was no stopping this building frenzy. Regretfully, not all construction developments have followed the golden rule of ‘no taller than a palm tree and incorporating Balinese design’ giving some areas a ramshackle look. This overkill zeal for building accommodations is ongoing and spreading to nearly every corner of the island.
With her hospitality sector on the rise Bali has became a magnet for those searching for work. The population has risen but the safety level appears to have decreased. Bali was once known as very safe, but now…not so much. The ‘isle of paradise’ will lose its appeal when people don’t feel secure.
Another problem Bali is facing now are the constant traffic jams. Where bemos were once king of the road, they have been usurped by cars and motorcycles. Well, we cannot blame the users, as the lack of public service to accommodate the people’s need for mobility forces the people to use their private vehicles instead of taking public bemos. Bali is faster-paced and people need greater mobility. Major car and motorcycle dealers, seeing business opportunities, are enticing buyers with easy installment plans to meet that need. To avoid traffic Trans Sarbagita bus service linking Nusa Dua - Batu Bulan has been pressed into service since last year. Simply search Trans Sarbagita on Facebook and you will see updated information. Unfortunately it’s available in Bahasa Indonesia.
But let’s not only see the problems, let’s see how they can be solved. To note, the government has stepped up its efforts to overcome the pressing problems with the new Benoa - Nusa Dua toll road and the Simpang Siur underpass. The underpass is under construction to alleviate traffic congestion. Villas and hotels that have transgressed regulations are being demolished and the Go Green Project for better environmental control is underway.
Just last month Bali police announced the formation of a new task force that will be operating in the Denpasar, Badung and Gianyar districts, which provide tourists with rapid response in case of crime and accidents. Motorcycles are given to the beach patrol to ensure safer beaches. Look for the ‘to Serve and Protect’ vans of Bali Guard Police for filing complaints on site.
Another hope also comes when UNESCO adds the Balinese subak system to its heritage list. At least, with the recognition from UNESCO, the pride of this country that once was the pride of its agriculture will be well preserved, and will be spared the atrocity of being taken over by swank villas. Ideally, a formula for success that meets commercial needs without destroying everything in its path must be found. Or we may see a decrease of potential visitors as they veer away and go to other Asian dream destinations.
Bali is still struggling to overcome her problems. Strangely enough though, it remains a magnet to visitors and people looking to make Bali their home. Maybe that attraction is in the vibrantly, open-hearted welcome of the island and the Balinese to all who come. It’s an intangible reason that can only be felt.
Text By Winny, Photo by Tamam//Depth of Field
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Posted by » Bali and Beyond Magazine