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Reklamasi : campaign with music

Volunteer's Blog

Denpasar, Bali, January 2015 (Stefania Sechi)

The changings in Bali are really fast. You can see every day the country growing: houses are build all around us; every week a small new warung opens. When we first arrived Jalan Pemogan, the street where we live, was full of holes and easily flooded during the rain; after a couples of month the street was completely renewed and the sidewalk build. Bali hosts every year nearly 10 million of international and domestic tourists, and of course that affects the island.
Up to 1,000 hectares of Bali’s iconic rice fields are disappearing annually, replaced by infrastructures, villas, apartment blocks and high-capacity hotels. The water table is shrinking and 65% of rivers now dry up during the dry season. In the rainy season, diggers are needed to clear the thousands of tonnes of rubbish that pile up on the beaches of this small island.

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In September 2012 Bali’s governor authorized a real estate company (PT Tirta Bali International Forum, PT TWBI) to make use of the Benoa Gulf through reclamation. Benoa Bay is located in the south of Bali, his waters measure about 1.400 hectare surrounded by a mangrove forest of 1.375 ha. The bay is a “water tank” able to reduce the impact of inundations on the villages when the rain is copious; the bay also host a rich marine ecosystem (has been studied by Wetland International that the mangrove forest shows capabilities of absorption of greenhouse gases 4 times stronger than tropical forests). The PT TWBI project aims to revitalize 838 ha of the area in order to build several artificial islands, all connected to each other’s. The new build islands would host a cultural centre, an exhibition space, a botanical garden, a fisherman cove, a congress centre and perhaps an international private hospital, apartments, a Disneyland-style theme park and even a Formula One racing circuit.

The artificial islands would take up 75% of the bay’s area – a move that environmentalists fear could cause massive flooding. According to Ketut Sarjana Putra, the Indonesia Director of US NGO Conservation International (CI), seawater levels could increase by as much as 1.6 meters, inundating low-lying areas, while silt from dredging activities could swamp reefs and mangroves.

It appeared then that the contract with TWBI is inconsistent with a local law, and for that reason in 2013 the governor changed the object of the contract in “feasibility study”. About 1 year later, in May 2014 the governor also decided to revoke the status of “environmentally protected area” from Benoa bay, since an Indonesian law forbids reclamation projects in protected areas.

Behind Bali’s governor decision there are decades of corrupted public administration, which is one of the main problem in Indonesia today. The population, of course, strongly disagrees with the Benoa bay reclamation project, and they protested against the reklamasi project since 2012. Balinese people question themselves: what’s the best way to fight against the abuses on our own land? The answer is: Music!

Tolak reklamasi, the movement that fight against the construction of the artificial island in Benoa Bay, chose to campaign with concerts. This is actually a smart idea, because those events attract many people willing to be active, but also to have fun. Plus the campaign became a kind of “cultural hub” giving the opportunity to young local artist to perform and people to assist to the shows (the entrance is usually free of charges; sometimes it’s required to pay a small self-financing fee entrance -ex: 15k rupiah-). Finally the movement keep the participant enthusiastic about their purposes and the fight active.

The movement organizes many events, usually in Denpasar, and the most famous bands of Bali often play there. The location is always different, and the music genre also change: rock, dub, or metal and punk-rock (the one that teenagers love so much in every side of the world, Asia is not an exception), or DJ sets. Few weeks ago we assisted at the Mangroove performance (a reggae soul-funky band) and many others. If you look for live music in Bali you should stay tuned on reklamasi events: the environment is really fun and enjoyable, the audience is mainly local young people, and it is actually a really cool way to party alternative at the crowdie clubs in Kuta or Seminyak

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