Bali Governor, I Wayan Koster, has announced that he and his cabinet are drafting regulations to heavily control tourism activity on the island’s sacred mountains. The move comes after a series of disrespectful acts were performed by tourists on the mountains, as well as accidents resulting in injury and, in tragic cases, death. The regulation will control the amount of tourism activity allowed on Bali’s holy mountains, including Mount Batur, as well as the kinds of activities permitted.
Speaking at the 3rd Plenary Meeting of the Bali Provincial DPRD and the Bali Provincial DPRD on Monday, 30th January, Governor Koster laid out his plans to improve spatial planning and tourism on Bali’s sacred mountains.
He explained, “Earlier, I followed the directives of the regional regulations. First, there are aspects of sacred areas, including the mountain, which is arranged from the bottom to the top of the mountain, to be used as a sacred area. [The details are] in line with my expectations because the Sulinggih [High Priests] have made decisions for a number of mountains in Bali to be made holy areas.”
He continued to share that the regulations will be created based on ancient traditions and the Balinese relationship with the holy sites. He said that ritual, ceremony, meditation, and the creation of shrines would be permitted but that the areas should not be used primarily as tourism destinations.
“We [have] drafted a regional regulation specifically to make the mountain a sacred area. So that activities on the mountain can be controlled, entry is no longer free, it is [not] used as a tourist destination to go up to playing by motorbike to the top of the mountain.”
Koster continued, “So indeed, Mounts in Bali should be made a sacred area, [we feel its] no longer a sacred area. We have been declaring a sacred area to be unholy because we went too far. Therefore, with this arrangement, I will coordinate further because after we have drafted a special local regulation to make the mountain a sacred area. So that activities on the mountain can be controlled.”
The Governor cited specific incidents were accidents, including deaths, that have compromised the holy nature of the land. He explained, “How many times have there been accidents on Mount Batur? Maybe because it’s too much out of control, there are people who do activities to the top of the mountain, maybe they’re not holy, so they become tired, and disaster occurs.”
As soon as someone dies, the traditional village must carry out a mecaru [cleansing] or other ceremonies. Indeed, what we get is that we have to sacrifice sacred areas. So the activity [permitted] is only for the sake of ritual ceremonies or a special connection that we will do in a short time again. And hiking trails will be arranged.”
For many people in Bali, heavier controls of tourism in the mountains will be seen as a positive development. Many feel that tourism has forced the profoundly spiritual way of life in Bali to become compromised. Others, even tourism businesses, will be concerned about the impact the new controls will eventually have on their operations.
Governor Koster is pro-cultural preservation and pro-tourism, so tourism leaders in Bali can rest assured that the provincial government would not overtly jeopardize the progress made in the post-pandemic recovery. The new regulations will more heavily control activity in the mountains which, many hope, will ensure that the high-quality tourism the island wants to attract can be delivered.
In November 2022, an American tourist died during his descent from Mount Agung in Karangsaem Regency. Karangasem Search and Rescue team was immediately deployed to the scene, and he died shortly after he was rescued from the ravine into which he fell. Local religious leaders returned to the mountain to cleanse the sacred site and appease the spirits.
In May 2022, a Canadian tourist was deported after he posted a video of himself naked at the summit of Mount Batur, attempting to do a Maori Haka. Police and immigration made a public statement regarding their zero-tolerance stance on foreigners disrespecting Balinese culture and land.
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