The Indonesian island of Bali is a textbook example of a tropical paradise threatened by its own natural allure. Tourism has brought tremendous wealth to the previously sleepy outpost, but the associated development and burden of this massive industry is taking its toll on the environment, posing dilemmas that need urgent solutions.

Munduk village. Pic: Jacques Beaulieu (Flickr CC)

Since development will continue as long as there is money to be made, efforts are now focusing on improving currently inadequate infrastructure, such as waste removal and water, along with developing sustainable models of tourism.

One such model is community based tourism or CBT.

From Travel Daily News:

The villages with their peculiar tradition have the opportunity to be real tourism destinations thanks to their well preserve culture and environment. Money is also injected into the development of tourism facilities such as parking lots for busses, the installation of public toilets and the improvement of village roads. Workshops and training sessions are also provided to villagers to help them better understand tourists’ requests.

According to the Jakarta Post, since 2009 the Indonesian government has provided the equivalent of around $ 1.3 million US to develop some 50 Balinese villages as eco-tourism sites.

Another more sustainable development method is to encourage tourism that does not focus on Bali’s beaches, large hotels and glittering nightlife of Kuta, the island’s most developed resort area. Eco-tourism means preserving invaluable natural areas and resources like Bali’s mangrove forests, rich wildlife and varied ecosystems. Mangrove forests serve as important protection against tsunamis, erosion and helps keep garbage from washing out to sea, making coastal cleanup easier.

Bali Barat National Park. Pic: nkenji (Flickr CC)

Another article in the Jakarta Post highlights findings of Indonesia’s Udayana University tourism research consortium that tourists coming from developed countries increasingly prefer destinations that not only possess natural beauty, but actively protect it:

[Program head Agung Suryawan Wiranatha] advised the local administration to start developing a model for village-based ecotourism that the villages and tourist industry could use as a reference. The model should include principles that ensure the widest participation of the locals in all stages of development.

Simply enforcing some existing policies would also make Bali appeal to the whole “Eat, Pray, Love” crowd, who are more yoga and health food junkies than bleach blond nightclub frequenting university students who yell “wooooo!” at every chance they get while flashing Los Angeles gang signs they learned from years of watching MTV.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

We have a regional, provincial spatial plan to try to conserve rice fields and manage Bali as an organic Island, but it’s not enforced … The system is not strong enough to make people not corrupt it. We have a lot of regulations but very little compliance.’

–I Made Suanatha of the Wisnu Foundation

Imagine Bali as a place of nature reserves, organic farms and sustainable villages. It actually has all of these already. It just needs to focus on them rather than on the very water-intensive, waste-producing kind of development that destroys these kind of low-impact tourist attractions.

Grassland in West Bali National Park. Pic: CIFOR (Flickr CC)

Check out this excerpt from a glowing review of West Bali National Park:

It is difficult to be prepared for what the park is like. The best way I can think to say is that when I arrived I thought I had been transported from tropical Bali across continents to Africa.

The jungle is made up of primarily deciduous trees that are quite bare in the dry season, making for great wildlife viewing conditions. The accommodation is lodge-style and tucked gently into the landscape. There are horse riding, mountain biking and bird watching tours available.

(source: EcoTraveller)

Sounds appealing.

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