Thu, 09 Nov 2000

Residents of Bali's Nusa Ceningan plot their own future

By I Wayan Juniarta

DENPASAR, Bali (JP): No traditional Balinese community had ever undertaken the type of daunting task performed by the people of Nusa Ceningan, a small island an hour's boat ride south of Bali island.

The modest people of Ceningan have just completed a detailed master plan of the island's land utilization and management, as well as a comprehensive guideline for development on the island. Extensive mapping of Ceningan island was also carried out.

Nusa Ceningan is located between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida, and is included in the Klungkung regency of East Bali.

The idea of undertaking the mapping project and producing a thorough master plan of this 306-hectare island was based on residents' concern about a plan to develop a gigantic tourism project on the island. The project was aimed at transforming the pristine and peaceful island into an attractive and profitable tourist destination.

The large investor consortium of Nusa Penida Devindo Wisata (NPDW), which includes the Bali Tourism Development Corporation (BTDC), declared its interest in 1997 in developing various tourist facilities on this beautiful island.

NPDW's shareholders consist of the Klungkung regional government, private company PT Puriloka Asri and BTDC, the company that manages the famous Nusa Dua tourist resort.

The consortium planned to build at least 16 hotels on Nusa Ceningan. Locals rejected the idea, and the consortium was forced to relocate its project to Nusa Penida island.

Nyoman Napan, a respected figure in Nusa Ceningan, explained that people's objection to the plan was based on the fact that the consortium never involved locals in the planning process. The locals also believed the development would damage the island's already scarce natural resources.

"For instance, there is a big question over the island's water supply, which is not enough for the island's population of 1,603, let alone to support 16 big hotels," Napan said.

He said there are only two wells on Nusa Ceningan that provide freshwater, with the island's other wells producing salty water.

The locals, however, realized tourism would also benefit them and could boost the island's development. They knew the island's white beaches, magnificent coral reefs and prime location certainly had the potential to become a tourist haven.

"We need investors to build the infrastructure and facilities. But any development on the island must involve the locals, and the investors must listen to the expectations and aspirations of the locals," he said.

With the help of several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the Denpasar-based Wisnu Foundation and the Manikaya Kauci Foundation, the people of Nusa Ceningan began channeling their hopes and aspirations into a detailed master plan in the middle of 1999.

With financing from the Jakarta-based Kehati Foundation, the locals carried out the first stage of the master plan project. All of the residents of Nusa Ceningan, comprising five traditional community organizations, took part in the process of collecting necessary data.

Within several months data had been collected on the island's demographic conditions, socioeconomic situation and natural resources. For the first time in their history, the people of Nusa Ceningan had comprehensive data on their social and economic condition, and natural assets.

They received meaningful assistance from two scholars: JJ Wennou, an expert on small-island ecology at Pattimura University in Ambon, and Dr. Prijo Sutedjo, an expert on semiarid ecosystems at Nusa Cendana University. Together with locals, they began to formulate the island's master plan on land use and management, and development guidelines.

"Their community is so solid, the bonds between them so strong that everybody was willing to get involved in the process. It is no wonder that they finished the whole process in just one year," said the Kehati coordinator for Java and Bali, Made Suarnatha

The plan divides the island into 12 zones, including a protected zone, conservation zone, housing zone, tourism zone, cultivation zone, limited zone and a mangrove zone.

"We believe that there must be a balance between the urge to develop and the ability to conserve. Otherwise, we might destroy nature in the process of developing our island," another Nusa Ceningan community leader, Pan Sita, said.

Nusa Ceningan's three community temples and nine clan temples are included in the protected zone. The island's precious coral reefs along the eastern shore of Nusa Ceningan are included in the same category.

Several areas where rare vegetation and plants grow were placed in the conservation zone. The beaches on the northern part of the island were placed in the limited zone in order to protect their coral reefs and seaweed.

The plan also includes several rehabilitation programs for the island's critically arid and eroded areas.

The people of Nusa Ceningan prefer ecologically friendly tourism development. Therefore large-scale tourism projects, which would consume huge portions of land and other natural resources, are definitely out of the question.

"As long as investors adhere to our guidelines then the people of Nusa Ceningan will embrace them warmly, and are ready to work with them to develop this island," Nyoman Napan stated.

The Nusa Ceningan residents have shown humble people are able to speak their mind, determine their own destiny and plan the future of their own community, with only a little help from their concerned friends.