Bali’s Governor, Wayan Koster, has reiterated his commitment to banning all activities on Bali’s sacred mountains.
In the last few weeks, Koster announced that the public, including local Balinese communities, will be banned from stepping foot on the island’s twenty-two mountains except in very specific circumstances.
During a speech on Monday, 19th June, Governor Koster reiterated his commitment and quashed backlash from those who are opposing his decision.
He told media and provincial stakeholders that this move had been years in the making, a policy that he wanted to enact long before he became governor.
He said that the decision to implement the ban on hiking activities and all access to the mountains to the general public has been informed by studying the ancient traditional scriptures of Bali, the Nangun Sat Kerthi Loka.
@surya_jeep_kintamani sunrise #jeep #adventure #explore #mountbatur #kintamani #bali ♬ Follow keitaynwa – harveyynwa
Governor Koster said, “We have to learn from Balinese saints, Balinese ancestors, people who are Balinese elders, how he managed nature, Balinese culture when Bali was just created.”
He continued, “We are also neglecting this holy place which is the principle. We have to be solid. I don’t care about people who have pragmatic thoughts, which in the long term, will damage the natural order of humans and Balinese culture. Narrow-minded and pragmatic, I’m sorry, I think about the long term.”
@alengkongbalicamp Mount Agung Bali! #viral #fypp #CapCut #bali #foryourpage #kintamani #alengkongbalicamp #viralvideo ♬ suara asli – San_project
By pragmatic thoughts, Governor Koster is referring to the backlash he faced over his ban on mountain hiking guides and communities who currently rely on mountain tourism for their income.
Governor Koster has already tabled a solution, noting that formally registered mountain guides will be offered work as environmental rangers.
A job role that, according to Koster, will provide a more lucrative and secure income than ad-hoc guiding.
Governor Koster is clear that the sacred nature of the mountains in Bali must be honored, and he has the backing of many of the High Priests on the island.
He spoke of his belief that if the mountains are not honored and respected that higher powers will curse the island.
Bali is a deeply spiritual island, which is in part why it has become so popular with tourists. Balinese Hinduism is practiced devoutly by communities across the island, and it is clear that Governor Koster wants to protect cultural values and spiritual beliefs at all costs.
He noted that if the Balinese communities of today cannot protect the island as the ancestors did, a curse will be struck across the island.
Governor Koster said, “If we can’t take care of it, ignore this, leave it, wait for [the god’s] curse. I don’t want to be cursed by them. Therefore I walk in line [with their wishes].”
For nature lovers saddened that they will no longer be able to take part in the sunrise hike on Mount Batur or summit Mount Agung, know that there is still an incredible amount of adventure activities to take part in Bali.
In fact, the hiking ban will likely lead to more innovation in these areas as communities find new ways to diversify their income through tourism.
It must also be remembered that Bali’s two largest peaks, Mount Agung and Mount Batur, are both active volcanoes.
Mount Agung last erupted in 2019 and bought the island to a temporary standstill. Mount Bratan is said to not have erupted for over 1000 years, but the island is very much alive with seismic activity.
In 1963 Mount Agung fully erupted several times with a lava flow that traveled over 7km around the crater. Over 1,500 deaths were recorded, and dozens of villages were decimated.
It was noteworthy, however, that the lava flows missed the Mother Temple of Besakih by a whisper. Many Balinese people believe that this was a sign from the spirits that they needed to remind humans of their power but not totally destroy everything.
Many readers will remember the eruptions of Mount Agung between 2017 and 2019.
Thousands of people were evacuated from the high-risk zones around the volcano, and flights from I Gusti Ngurah Rai Airport were heavily impacted throughout the year as ash plumes and lava spews continued.
Governor Koster’s move may seem radical, but he is not the first leader to call a halt to tourism in areas where environmental damage was starting to take hold.
In 2019 officials in Thailand closed the incredibly popular Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands as mass tourism had started to severely impact the fragile coastal ecosystem.
While the beach opened again, it is clear that mass tourism in fragile ecosystems and sacred sites must be carefully managed moving forward all over the world.
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