Following the announcement of a blanket ban on all activities on all of Bali’s twenty-two mountains, including iconic Mount Batur and Mount Agung, local communities and tourists are making their feelings known.
Earlier this week, Bali’s Governor Wayan Koster announced that all activities on all of Bali’s mountains would be banned with immediate effect, ‘forever.’
This includes not only tourism activities for international visitors, but also domestic tourists and, most significantly, local people.
This has triggered huge concerns for local communities and business owners whose lives and livelihoods are intimately connected to the mountains and volcanoes on the island.
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Speaking to reporters, the Head of the Wangaya Gede Traditional Village, I Ketut Sucipto, explained his reasons for disagreeing with the new policy.
Situated close to the stunning Mount Batukaru, Wangaya Gede Traditional Village relies on income generated from tourism activities on the mountain.
He said, “I agree to keep chaste. But disagree when people should be banned. We have been fighting in the village for two years to keep the mountains and temples pure. This is suddenly a ban.”
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Sucipto believes that an immediate ban is too extreme of a measure straight off the bat. He is calling on the government to consider implementing clearer and stricter regulations on activities on the mountain before enforcing the ban.
He fears that by prohibiting tourists and even locals from visiting the mountains in Bali, there will be an immediate negative impact on tourism.
Sucipto said, “We ask the Governor, the Regional Police Chief, and the Regent to sit together first. Let them receive input from the lowest [level, from] those who know about the ins and outs of the existence of those mountains.”
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He concluded, notably, that “foreign tourists have never polluted heaven” in and around Mount Batukaru in Tabanan Regency.
Over in the communities surrounding Bali’s highest volcano, Mount Agung, trekking guides have been left blindsided by the announcement.
Trekking guide Komang Kayun urged the government to create solutions for the loss of income incurred by the ban.
Kayun said, “If climbing is not allowed, dozens of guides will automatically be unemployed. I have no other means of livelihood. If it is closed, the government and Governor must provide other solutions to guides. For example, the government should provide ten cows to be raised.”
Just as communities in rural areas are starting to find their flow again in a post-pandemic world, the ban could be utterly devastating. It is not just the guides who have lost their jobs overnight, but small locally run tourism businesses like guesthouses and cafes will also suffer as a result.
Kayun continued “Don’t close [the mountains]. My family’s kitchen needs this. Imagine how many people will become victims if I become unemployed.”
Kayun, like Sucipto, agrees that changes to the way tourism on Bali’s most popular mountains are managed need to be made, but the simple tightening of regulations could garner more impactful and aligned results.
Prominent Balinese entrepreneur and social justice advocate Ni Luh Djelantik has also added her input to the calls to revoke the ban.
A translation of Djelantik’s reads, “My advice applies new rules regarding tariffs, guide standardization, cleanliness, courtesy standards, safety. Copy the rules applied in other areas. [It’s] not the activity of climbing that [should] be prohibited but the rules that must be enforced and [consequences for] violators must be strict.”
What does this all mean for tourists planning their visits to Bali? For now, it looks like the ban could stick.
Although it remains to be seen if the growing pressure that is being applied by local leaders and communities in Bali will be enough to encourage the provincial government to reconsider what can and cannot be done on the mountains.
The ban will unduly leave those thousands of prospective travelers to Bali brokenhearted. The sunrise hike of Mount Batur is consistently one of the most highly rated and in-demand travel experiences on the island.
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