Wed, 24 Sep 2003

Tourism, housing threaten Bandung forest

Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung, West Java

A massive tourism and housing project is threatening a forest and the water supply to the West Java provincial capital of Bandung.

If Bandung regency goes ahead with its plans, hundreds of hectares of forest in Lembang district will be cleared to develop an 800-hectare tourism and residential area in the mountainous resort, which functions as the water catchment area that supplies water to Bandung municipality.

The provincial legislative council has strongly urged the provincial administration to take the necessary measures to stop the project or otherwise Lembang would be turned into a "desert", natural disasters such floods and landslides would increase in Bandung regency, and the supply of water to densely-populated Bandung municipality would come under threat.

Meanwhile, Bogor regent Obar Sobarna has turned a deaf ear to the provincial legislative council and the increasing protests voiced by many sides, including environmental activists, saying that the project was in line with the local land use plan as set out in local regulation No. 12/2001, which allows the regency administration to use 800 hectares of forest to develop a complex of four-star hotels, entertainment centers and residential compounds.

"The regency administration has appointed PT Baru Ajak, a construction company, to develop the project and commission an environmental impact analysis," he said here recently.

Serious environmental problems emerged in the North Bandung hill resort in 1995 when the regency administration allowed the development of luxury homes in the area. These developments were widely blamed for subsequent flooding and landslides in the regency.

Yudi Widiana Adia, a member of the provincial legislative council, lambasted Sobarna as being unscrupulous, saying he had manipulated the local regulation for commercial purposes.

"The regent should resort to lateral thinking and stop these projects as besides contradicting the regulation, they will entail a host of adverse consequences for the public and the environment.

"Under current conditions, Lembang is no longer able to fulfill its support functions for Bandung municipality, and floods and landslides have hit the regency almost every year over the past decade," he said, adding that a recent landslide had claimed the lives of six people in the regency.

He noted that at the present time, North Bandung could absorb 60 percent of the rainfall that fell and supply 1.7 billion cubic meters of water, whereas the city of five million people actually needed 7 billion cubic meters of water per day.

He said the provincial legislature would ask Governor Danny Setyawan to take the necessary action so as to avoid a further deterioration in the environment in North Bandung, and more natural disasters and water crises in the city.

Yudi said that the relevant regency regulation contradicted provincial regulation No. 2/2003 on the provincial land use plan.

"Both the regent and the regency legislative council should stick to the land use plan issued by the provincial administration," he said, citing that the province's land use plan recommended the development of an agribusiness center to improve the welfare of vegetable growers in Lembang district.

He also said that according to Article 82 of the provincial regulation, the governor was responsible for coordinating the regulation of land use in the border areas between one regency and other regency, and between a regency and a municipality.

"Besides, the provincial administration has prohibited developers from constructing residential areas in the hill resort," he said, referring to Gubernatorial Decree No. 181/1982, which provides that North Bandung is a conservation area and off- limits to further housing development.

Yadi Srilulyadi, Bandung regency legislative council speaker, said the legislative council was not aware of the project and, in any case, it could not stop it as the local development planning board (Bappeda) had issued a permit giving the go-ahead.

Mudji Raharto, the director of the Bosscha Astronomical Observatory, also objected to the projects, which he said would adversely affect the observatory's research work.