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Karangasem beaches suffer from environmental damage

Posted on: September 15, 2004

The Jakarta Post (Wednesday, 15 September 2004)

Luh De Suriyani, Contributor,
Karangasem

The twigs of a coconut tree in front of the small lodge in Candi Dasa beach, Karangasem regency, Bali danced violently in the wind.

The strong wind also whipped up some large waves that smashed the foundation of the building that directly faces the Bali strait. A part of the foundation was eroded by seawater, while the big stones that were piled up as a barrier were smashed into pieces.

Unlike other areas in Sanur, Nusa Dua or Kuta, which have a spacious coastal area, the width of Candi Dasa beach is quite small — just a few meters in places.

Pamela Haris, 62, who was relaxing in front of the lodge, said that she had spent a week in Candi Dasa. The tourist from Melbourne, along with her friend, said she did not expect to see such a beautiful beach in Candi Dasa. She had made her plans to stay here for the quietness offered.

However, she was surprised to see the poor condition of Candi Dasa beach.

“The beach here is a mess. In my country, the government has strict regulations on the use of the beach,” she said. Candi Dasa, one of the tourist attractions in Karangasem regency, is located about 80 kilometers east of Denpasar. A large part of the beach is damaged due to abrasion.

The edge of the beach is only between one or two meters from the road in some sections. In order to prevent more damage, the local authorities have installed barriers.

A local environmentalist, I Made Mangku, said that the erosion of the beach in Candi Dasa had really gotten worse since 1987, affecting a five-kilometer area.

The development of many hotels and other accommodation facilities to meet the growing demand of tourism has contributed greatly to the environmental damage as many of the buildings were built too close to the beach.

Like Candi Dasa beach, the nearby beach in Tulamben, a favorite diving spot with beautiful fish and coral, also suffers from environmental problems. The reason, however, is different. Tulamben beach, where the Liberty cargo vessel from the United States was once wrecked, is dirty due to the silt that is carried downstream into the sea from the denuded hills.

Head of the Karangasem tourism and culture agency, Ida Nyoman Djelantik, said that the silt flowed into the beach because there were now just a few trees upriver as a result of illegal logging around Mount Agung. The deforestation also makes the area prone to flooding.

The local government is now conducting greenery projects to save the environment in Tulamben, the busiest diving and snorkeling spot in the regency. The project will cost some Rp 300 million and the money is taken from the fund from the World Bank allocated for the planning of Tulamben, according to Djelantik.

Another problem that threatens coastal areas in Karangasem is the theft of stones and sections of coral reef. Damage to the coastal areas in Karangasem has disturbed the fragile marine ecosystem that attracts tourists.

Indeed, there is a wide diversity of marine biota, some of which will forever remain a mystery if they become extinct. “Once, a tourist took a picture of a small, unique species of shrimp in Bitung island, Sumatra. Then the photo appeared in a magazine and visitors flocked to the areas to see it. It turned out that many such shrimps are found of the coast of Karangasem,” said Cipto Adji Gunawan, a divemaster.

Gunawan, the owner of AIR Diving Academy, said that beaches in Karangasem like those in Tulamben, Kubu and Amed hold on to a mystery in their underwater world. Karangasem, he said, is the best place in Bali for divers to seek adventure. “It is very easy to reach the water along Karangasem beaches because of the good transportation system and infrastructure, as well as the logistics,” he said enthusiastically.

As a tourist attraction, Karangasem knows what the visitors want, but tourist development activities should not be done without considering the costs to the environment.

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