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2022 was an important year of recovery for Bali and, with a sigh of relief, we can see that the economy has bounced back and that the business, communities and individuals are not only surviving, but thriving! How far we have come from the desperate and desolate times of the pandemic, and it is great to see.
However, it seems we are faced with a new problem that stems from the other side of the spectrum: over-abundance! Bali’s post-pandemic popularity is seeing the island fill-up to pre-pandemic numbers, plus even more fervent development. So, we see ourselves returning to preach old tenets, that is, curbing mass-tourism and over-tourism, before it is too late. Or has Pandora’s Box been opened already?
Nevertheless, I will use the new year to suggest some ground rules, disguised as Bali’s New Year Resolutions. These 20 points I have made are my hopes and dreams — like many of our resolutions! — but I share them in all seriousness, as I believe Bali will require some very stringent regulations to maintain its place as a world-renowned destination that everyone can love, or indeed a wonderful place to live for residents.
The first points are all about becoming a sustainable island:
1. Making every hotel, villa, home, office, factory do mandatory waste separation and aim for 85% recycling by 2025.
2. Enforce all commercial properties to eliminate single -use plastic especially water cups and bottles.
3. Invite all businesses to at least partially transit to renewal energy.
4. Train businesses in sustainable supply chain management to increase local purchases.
5. Increase vocational training across all rural sectors to enable the growth of small creative industries and reduce reliance on tourism.
6. Transition to EV Public Transport and reduce motorcycle and motorcars by 50% over 5 years.
7. Ban all mega-sized buses and trucks: full stop. Enforce a maximum size limit.
8. Eliminate all giant billboards across the island. Again use a size limit.
Next we have the cultures and nature factors:
9. Expats and permanent residents should learn basic Bahasa Indonesia and/orBasa Bali.
10. Planning new developments should all be subject to Balinese cultural and traditional factors. This will include hotels, villas, malls, everything.
11. Not one more hectare of agricultural land should be developed ever again.
12. Degraded areas should be “rewilded”. Replanted and protected.
13. Shoreline construction that does not comply with regulations should be re-certified and if actually destructive to the shoreline, removed.
14. Undeveloped land should be given to local communities to cultivate with cash crops.
15. Noise pollution should be monitored and very strict limits set, not just for the bars and clubs but for trucks, motorcycles and all loud noise emitters
16. Boundary walls around properties should be limited to 2m. Some compounds with 4-5m walls are changing the flow of wind and are very unsightly.
Lastly we have the rules on behaviour:
17. All visitors should be asked to sign a pledge or a promise (as in Palau or Bhutan) which guides them to avoid anti-social behaviour.
18. This includes respect for the traditional and religious ceremonies of the Balinese. These are not instagram moments but actual religious ceremonies.
19. Discipline on the road is also an area of great concern and I encourage the authorities to pursue serious penalties for those driving badly and carelessly.
20. Finally, and most difficult of all, we need to restrict the numbers of arrivals. This will be painful for those who have built hotels and villas, but the island has a “carrying capacity” which we have exceeded to the detriment of all. Sad for those who won’t be able to come just when they want, but this will vastly improve the experience for when they do come, since those reduced numbers will ease congestion, reduce waste, reduce electricity and water usage, and make Bali a better place to visit.
I know this might make me unpopular amongst those who are investing heavily in Bali, but we really need to be (constantly) thinking longterm about what is good for the island. Besides, ‘balance’ is at the heart of Balinese philosophy, and something that we should all adhere to. I hope you agree.