Bali locals concerned about expanding coal power plants


February 28, 2018 09:00:48

Relentless growth in Bali is spreading pollution and over-development to far flung corners of the island.

Key points:

  • Government plans to expand power plant to boost electricity supplies
  • Farmers and fishermen have launched legal action to stop the expansion
  • They say they are being intimidated to give up their land

Farmers and fishermen have launched legal action to stop the expansion of a coal power plant near one of the island’s favourite tourist beaches.

They say the power plant is causing environmental damage by polluting local waterways, killing fish and threatening wildlife including dolphins and an already endangered bird.

Ketut Mangku Wijana harvests coconuts on the family farm in Bali’s north.

He used to sell 5,000 coconuts a month to tourists at nearby Lovina Beach.

But he said his crop had shrunk by two thirds since a coal-fired power station opened next door.

“With the smoke from the plant, the leaves of the trees are getting smaller, some trees are still alive, but they have no fruit anymore. The dust makes the leaves shorter,” he said.

And now, with development in northern Bali booming — as tourists try to escape the congestion further south — Bali’s government plans to expand the power plant to boost the islands electricity supplies.

And farmers like Mr Wijana say they are under pressure to give up their land.

“This land goes back to my ancestors,” he said.

“I don’t mind moving, if the price is fair. But they intimidate us to sell our land — they started digging the land around my property.”

Tourism behind demand for electricity

Mr Wijana is one of three locals now suing the Balinese government to stop the expansion going ahead.

They say not only has the coal plant damaged their livelihoods and health, but the government failed to consult the wider community and violated local zoning laws.

Greenpeace campaigner Didit Haryo said the coal plant’s expansion goes against everything tourists expect in Bali.

“Bali should be provided by renewable energy, not from the dirty energy,” he said.

“There’s been some research [shows] Bali has a lot of potential for renewable energy.”

A spokesman for Bali’s governor Dewa Mahendra said he supported the development of solar power, but demand for electricity far outstripped supply.

“The need for electricity in Bali is so great, that’s why we need it. Though we encourage people to build and use renewable power,” he said.

The legal challenge — which goes to court next week — is the latest in a string of lawsuits brought against Indonesia’s coal power industry.

Community groups have successfully challenged a similar expansion on Java.

But a victory in Bali, while good for local farmers and tourism, would likely just shift the growing pressure on Bali’s infrastructure to another less developed corner of the island.






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