No environmental permit for Bali bay reclamation plan amid opposition

The reclamation project was initially approved during the previous administration, but local communities rose against the plan, saying it could damage the mangrove-rich area on which their livelihoods depended on.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s administration will withhold a key permit for a plan to build artificial islands in Bali’s Benoa Bay as long as strong opposition to the project remains among locals, a cabinet official told Mongabay.

Environment minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, who must sign off on the project for it to go ahead, acknowledged in an interview that many Bali residents remained hostile to the plan.

“That has to be resolved,” she said on the sidelines of a recent event in Jakarta. “Otherwise, the environment ministry won’t issue [the environmental permit.]”

The reclamation project was initially approved during the administration of the former president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who signed off on the rezoning of Benoa Bay for development before he left office in 2014. That same year, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries issued a location permit for the project to PT Tirta Wahana Bali Internasional, an arm of Indonesian tycoon Tomy Winata’s Artha Graha conglomerate.

The plan was to build artificial islands for a multibillion-dollar complex featuring hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues and a convention center. But after a mass movement arose against the project, the environment ministry under President Widodo refused to sign off on the environmental impact assessment for the project. The project appeared to die in August 2018 when the location permit from the maritime ministry expired automatically after four years.

Three months later, however, the maritime ministry issued the same company a new permit for reclamation in the bay, valid for two years. Tomy’s firm is now applying for an environmental permit from the environment ministry so that it can proceed with its plans.

I Wayan Gendo Suardhana, the coordinator of ForBALI, a local group that opposes the reclamation plan, welcomed the environment minister’s comments, but called for the conservation status of Benoa Bay to be restored so that the project could truly be killed.

“[President Widodo] must uphold the mandate of people in Bali where he won 92 per cent of the votes,” Gendo told Mongabay.

This story was published with permission from Mongabay.com.

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