It is seen as Indonesia’s largest mass tourism project in paradise Island Bali. But now it is turning into Indonesia’s largest protest and probably largest nightmare for the Indonesian government and Bali regional government: Benoa Bay Reclamation or “Nusa Benoa” in the southern part of the island.
The project is a massive US$3 billion investment driven by Indonesian private developer, Tirta Wahana Bali International (TWBI). Presented in 2012, the project foresees the development of artificial islands that would take up almost half of Benoa Bay.
TWBI envisions a luxury resort development across four new islands, including villas and apartments, a shopping mall, a mangrove eco chalets, a botanical garden, a marina and even a cultural theme park. Of course, TWBI mirrors the fact that “Nusa Benoa” would bring additional jobs, be eco-friendly as it would cause minimal impact and avoid waste in the ocean.
However the project would further densify Southern Bali which has already been ruined by uncontrolled development over the last two decades between the districts of Nusa Dua, Kuta and Sanur. Worst is that the government seems to so far support the idea and to sideline the initiative of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhyono who issued a decree in 2014 to turn it into a zone for ‘ conservation and revitalisation’. Benoa Bay is home to more than 60 natural sites that are sacred to the island’s Hindu population, including 24 temples.
However, the perspective of jobs and wealth to all does not seem to impress Balinese people anymore. For more than a year now, massive protests have been organised while an association, the Bali Forum Against Reclamation (ForBali) has seen young people, politicians, rock stars, academic and religious institutions, environmentalists as well as three dozens of villages uniting together to fight against the project.
In an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian in 2016, Director of US NGO Conservation International, Ketut Sarjana Putra explained that the future newly created islands would actually generate flooding on a very large scale as the bay size would be reduce by half and then lose its role as a buffer zone for waters arriving on the shores of Bali Island.
Facing mounting criticism and opposition, the government finally took the decision to call in the World Bank to help evaluating properly the Benoa Bay reclamation project. The decision was announced on February 23. “A World Bank team has started working on the study’s terms of reference and collecting data. I also asked Udayana University to join the study, so it would be independent,” Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said on Thursday on the sidelines of the World Ocean Summit, reported Indonesian newspapers.
Udayana University already produced a study back to 2013 recommending that the reclamation project should not be given the go-ahead from authorities. ‘The team will also examine the feasibility of a proposed ring road around the Bali coastline and a cruise-ship port in Benoa to alleviate rising traffic problems around the island”, added the Minister.