No. 35 l June 10 - 24, 2012
The Subak as World Cultural Heritage By Jan Hendrik Peters Strategic Advisor THK Foundation
more than ever the credo of Bali government. In the past international and Balinese intellectuals and scientists blamed Bali government that Bali was in the process of losing its identity as heavenly island and that mass tourism was destroying the authenticity of Bali, where people lived in peace and harmony with each other, based on the philosophy of Tri Hita Karana. This process of mass tourism is still going on and can not be stopped from one moment on the other. But the official status of the subak as world cultural heritage is a first step in the right direction. Historical mistake The best thing that could happen to Bali has recently happened, namely that the UNESCO decided to put the irrigation system on Bali -the subak- on the official list of world cultural heritage sites. With this official recognition the subak has become world-famous and many international tourists will from now on put a visit to the rice fields on top of their list of must-see cultural objects on Bali. It is much more than just good news that will attract tourists from all over the world. It means no more or less than that mass tourism has to keep off their hands from usurping rural area for the development of all kinds of mega projects, which as such are damaging the reputation of Bali as Island of the Gods. This UNESCO recognition implies that the subak on Bali is one of the cultural assets of exceptional beauty and value, but it implies also that the subak belongs to the world. This universal significance has to be respected by all stakeholders of Bali tourism and has to be taken into account in the future tourism development. Bali tourism is really international and clearly beyond the borders. Local policy that does not protect this international character of Bali cultural tourism would be in conflict with the UNESCO recognition and would arouse international protest. By applying internationally for the status of UNESCO world heritage and by accepting this exceptional recognition Bali government has promised the world to guarantee that it will protect the subak under all circumstances. This is a firm statement but the nomination of the subak as world cultural heritage has been an ambition from which government can not easily withdraw. The official recognition and acceptance of this honour are binding for government and all partners in Bali tourism to protect and develop the subak. The official status of world cultural heritage of the subak means a fantastic support for the development of Bali as Island of the Gods, but is at the same time an obligation for government to take all necessary action to make it true. Stick to your identity and keep your promise has to be
Traditional village (desa) and the organization of the ancient water management system (subak) are from the very beginning part of Bali civilization. Both are interrelated. Subaks are socio-religious, irrigation co-operatives that work to balance the needs of the community and support sustainable, organic rice production. The terraced paddy fields are irrigated by gravity through a system of collectively owned and managed irrigation channels which are fed by a dam which is often owned by several subaks. So many villages are spread out over Bali and each village has at least one or two subak organizations for a fair distribution of the water among the farmers of the village. In both desa and subak the villagers and farmers lived in peace and harmony with each other according to the philosophy of Tri Hita Karana (THK) in which God, human and nature were the determinants for the villagers to achieve happiness at the end of their life. This idyllic situation continued even when cultural tourism started in the 1930s of last century but when cultural tourism developed into mass tourism, Bali society changed dramatically. In human history one has to accept that the world is changing by continuous innovation. In this respect the globalization can be considered as one of the biggest changes ever, pushed forward –in the case of Bali- by international tourists with so many different cultures. In this melting pot of cultures Bali has forgotten its own unique culture of desa and subak and only imitated the outside world. This has proved to be a historical mistake by ignoring the own authentic culture and just copying and imitating foreign cultures. This is incomprehensible, realizing that the confrontation with the typical Balinese culture originally has been the motive to go to Bali. During the transformation process of cultural tourism into mass tourism the type of tourists also changed. Tourists nowadays visit Bali because of entertainment, luxury and fun and not so much anymore because of the authenticity of Bali. Even more alarming, also the mentality of the Balinese themselves has changed as a
World Environment Day To celebrate the World Environment Day 2012, on Tuesday (5 June), Meliá Bali Meliá Bali held a regular Cleaning Blitz Program for the resort’s area organized by Safety & Environment and Human Resources Departments to ensure a cleaner and healthier environment around the Hotel, a simple act for a greener environment. Beside the Cleaning Blitz Program we organized other activities during the day. Thirty turtles (Chelonia mydas – green sea turtle) released at Meliá Bali – Nusa Dua beach by the management team together with long stay guests and media. Twenty “Blendo” trees also planted by our General Manager Mr. Jim Boyles together with all participants at the beach area. This year would be their most unforgettable moments for participating in the activity of taking part preserving the nature and environment. All activities highlighted the Meliá Bali’s
commitment to sustainable tourism. It was the first hotel in Asia and one of only five hotels in the world to be awarded the distinction of EarthCheck Platinum. This places Meliá Bali as a leader in the unique worldwide group of sustainable tourism operators that are certified to the internationally recognised EarthCheck Company Standard with exclusive EarthcheckTM science and systems. In line with the resort’s commitment to implement one of the 12 values hotel philosophies which states “we are committed to preserving a clean and green environment”, more than 100 person joined the programs. Chief of Benoa Vilage Mr. I Wayan Solo said at the end of the event that “the Meliá Bali provides an excellent example and worthy to be imitated by other companies and various institutions, they are active in carrying out various social activities and concern for the environment”. v BTNewspaper/PR
consequence of mass tourism. Values such as compassion, solidarity, and integrity are replaced by individualism and commercialism and just as the foreign tourism developers Balinese people are focused on making money and becoming rich notwithstanding their life philosophy of THK. This brief sketch of the situation of Bali will do to realize that the identity is at stake and that villagers and farmers –the heroes of authentic, spiritual Bali- are the ‘losers’ in comparison with the successful money makers in international tourism who do not really care about villagers and farmers. The split between the poor villagers and farmers in the rural area and the rich foreign tourism developers in the South is unjust. Against this background the international recognition of the subak as world cultural heritage could signify a milestone in changing Bali tourism development. Bali tourism for the Balinese or in other words for the villagers and farmers has to become the compass for tourism development. To turn about will not be easy, but in the slipstream of the subak as world heritage site there will be a chance to try harder and turn the tide. Blueprint of New Bali Tourism Of course Bali government is to blame for the development of mass tourism. Governors, regents and politicians are elected by the people in the expectation that they will take care for the welfare of the people and for the development of Bali. One can only conclude that they did not and that all their promises made before election, were broken after election. This phenomenon of not keeping your promises can also be found elsewhere in the world but for Bali it meant that cultural tourism changed into mass tourism without any interference by government. While mass tourism is still running, politicians and government officials on provincial and regency level are deliberating all the time how to put a stop to all kinds of negative results of mass tourism but all these actions are defensive, incidental and fragmentary and absolutely not focused on the long term. And this will continue as long as a blueprint for New Bali Tourism is missing that focuses on benefits not only for tourists, but also for people in the communities they visit, and for their respective spiritual, natural, social and cultural environments. The overall responsibility There is no doubt that the overall responsibility for the development of New Bali Tourism is held by government. This responsibility includes three tasks. The first one concerns the blueprint with a clear vision and strategy about cultural tourism. The considerations for this kind of tourism have to be mentioned and explained. The most convincing consideration will be that cultural tourism can only be achieved under the umbrella of the philosophy of THK. By using this life philosophy of the Balinese as reference of all innovation, the Balinese will feel committed and
are supporting cultural tourism. Another consideration will be that government on both provincial and regency level agrees unanimously about the blueprint and the choice for cultural tourism. Disagreement on political level about the blueprint would be confusing and undermine seriously the effectiveness of the strategy. The second task of government is to facilitate the process of the development of cultural tourism by adequate law and regulations. Desa and subak need specific regulation in order to survive. Both organizations are icons of the authentic, spiritual Bali and by killing these icons Bali would lose its identity. At the moment 1000 hectares of rice fields are yearly converted to mass tourism and this conversion has to be stopped immediately. The aggressively growing tourist industry increases the demand for rice. It also pays more than farming, thus luring the farmers away from their rice fields. New, faster growing species that require herbicides, pesticides and mechanization have been introduced to match the demand of both Balinese and international tourists, while on the other hand paddy fields become sites for tourist villas. Not only the sale of paddy fields has to be stopped immediately, but also the building of new star-rated hotels in the South that is already overcrowded with tourism facilities and clearly not in line with THK. The third task of government is to monitor the progress of the policy to achieve cultural tourism. The strategy to achieve cultural tourism is fine just as the necessary laws and regulations to facilitate the process, but also the budget, the timing and the public-private cooperation should be feasible to make implementation of cultural tourism successful. Bali is a wonderful island with a unique culture, where the villagers and the farmers are living according to the philosophy of THK. That’s why Bali is called the Island of the Gods. But unfortunately, mass tourism has become a danger for Bali and has the power to destroy the identity of Bali and its unique culture. The mentality of the Balinese is already changing from spiritual and compassionate to materialistic and opportunistic. Still there is a chance to overcome as Island of the Gods. The recognition of the subak as world cultural heritage is an important and encouraging step forwards to rescue Bali as Island of the Gods. Only a new spirit can stop mass tourism. For this we need to respect the philosophy of THK as the uniqueness of Bali; a government that shows vision and leadership; and last but not least a public-private cooperation of all stakeholders who are willing to bundle their efforts to achieve cultural tourism. In the end cultural tourism will be win-win for all: not just for tourists but also for the people in the communities and for nature. v
The Opening of New Entrance Gate Following the current development of The Ngurah Rai International Airport, the access direction to The Patra Bali Resort & Villas have also been undergoing a slight change to make it even better and easy to spot by those passing the area. In line to this positive development with the surrounding area, a new and big Gapura, an architecture closely related to Hindu belief, represents an entrance welcome to one specific place, was also build, hence, being the gate to welcome the guest entering The Patra Bali Resort & Villas. The signing of inscription by President Director of PT. Patra Jasa, Mr. Donny J. Subakti.
The official opening of this main entrance gate was held on Monday, June 04, 2012, with Hindu ceremony. Mr. Nyoman Wiryanata, The General Manager of The Patra Bali Resort & Villas in his welcoming speech express his special appreciation to over 80 invitees from partners and officials who have been extending their support to the growth of the hotel. Mr. Donny J. Subakti, the President Director of PT. Patra Jasa, witnessed by Mr. Poerwo Tjahjono, The Chief Commissioner of PT. Patra Jasa and all Management of The Patra Bali Resort & Villas signed the Inscriptions followed with the cutting of Jasmine Flower string, symbolizing the official opening of the Gapura.
The cutting of jasmine string by Chief Commissioner of PT. Patra Jasa, Mr. Poerwo Tjahjono.
Congratulations to The Patra Bali Resort & Villas, wishing you a great success in providing the highest service level to your guests. v
Published on Jan 22, 2013