A Balinese Surfer Priest Wants Your Help
You like Bali? Hindu priest and Padang Cup Champ, Mega Semadhi, needs help saving one of surfing’s favourite playgrounds.
His demeanour is calm, as is the Balinese way, but there is no mistaking the urgency in Mega Semadhi’s words.
“We have to stop it,” he tells Stab. “They’re doing it (building) faster now. It’s scary and we need to act fast.”
The Hindu priest and spiritual leader of the island’s surfing community is locked in a battle to save one of the island’s premier waves from yet another ill-conceived, multi-million dollar hotel development. And he needs the help of the international surfing community.
As reported two weeks ago, the Kempinski hotel group built a seawall right through the middle of the world class reef break, Nikkos (named after a nearby resort). This is only the start of their plan, says Mega. If they get their way the seawall will be extended 137 metres into the ocean at a width and height of five metres by five metres.
“The project has not considered the environmental impact,” says Mega. “All they’ve thought about is how to try to ‘preserve’ the sand in front of their hotel.”
The Balinese surfing community is preparing to defend the wave. He is currently in talks with local leaders to organise protest action against the resort. Stab can reveal the action has already been backed by the leaders of the recent Benoa Harbour protest, which brought tens of thousands to the streets of the island in a bid to prevent the development of an environmentally fragile, spiritually sacred waterway. Mega will be circulating an online petition later this week he hopes the international surfing media will pick up and publish. He is also pursuing legal avenues to stop the wave being destroyed. But, as Mega explains, this is just one fight in the larger battle to save his island.
“Now more people are aware of the environment, which is good,” he says. “The Benoa Reclamation made more villages aware of what’s on their territory. They’re gonna stop something if it’s wrong. It’s good more people are aware of that. At the same time, it’s a bit too late. But it could be worse.”
Despite some scientists warning of an impending environmental catastrophe on the island, poorly planned developments and countless infrastructure and environmental blights play out each year. A government moratorium on new tourism developments delivered in 2011 has largely been ignored, leading to an accommodation over-supply, clean water shortage, and severe waste and sewage disposal problem.
In this age of unprecedented transparency and fluid information flow, Indonesia’s national government has been forced to clean itself up. But, many Balinese officials remain as crooked as ever.
“They are too focused on boosting tourism instead of improving infrastructure and preserving the island’s natural beauty,” says Mega. “Instead of investigating new projects and development, the government tends to hand out permits easily. They should be protecting our land. If this continues, Bali will be destroyed.”
Mega and his brother-in-law, the village chief of the Pecatu community (which takes in the world famous Bukit Peninsula), plan to turn their part of the island into a nature park. The move would prevent further development along the increasingly congested Dreamland to Uluwatu stretch. It’s an uphill battle but Mega and his people are in it for the long haul. And, he wants your help.
“It’s sad,” he says. “When I go to the Mentawais I think, I wanna buy this land, I want to live here! Sometimes you feel like you should forget about all this but this is my motherland. I can’t just leave here. I need to protect the island.”
Find out more about protecting the Uluwatu/Nusa Dua region, here.
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