Subak farmers furious over road project

Written by on June 11, 2012 in Bali Environment with 0 Comments

‘Subak’ farmers furious over road project

by Luh De Suriyani on 2012-06-11

Hundreds of farmers from Kedampang subak organization in Kerobokan have joined forces to lodge a strong protest against Badung regional administration’s plan to implement a 2.7- kilometer road expansion project predicted to affect hectares of fertile rice fields.

“I humbly beg the local authority to move the logs from our irrigation channels,” said I Wayan Badra on Sunday afternoon. While he spoke softly and politely in high Balinese language, his face could not hide his anger.

“Our patience has a limit and this is the time,” added Badra, who along with 273 members of the subak traditional farming and agricultural group of Kerobokan village had planned to block the main Jl. Raya Pengubengan Kauh.

This is one of the main roads linking Kerobokan to the famous Kuta tourist site, west of Denpasar.

While the nation was celebrating World Environment Day on June 5, dozens of workers were ordered to cut down the intaran (neem) trees in Kerobokan area to make way for the road expansion project.

The neem tree (azadirachta indica) has been considered a wonder tree, or tree of life, for centuries across the Asian continent.

The tree prevents topsoil runoff and promotes sustainable agriculture by preserving water in the soil layers, badly needed by farmers to secure ground water.

“For us, the Balinese, the intaran tree is one of our most respected plants. We used to clean our hands by rubbing them on the tree trunk, believing it to contain a natural antiseptic solution,” a farmer said.

In other parts of Indonesia, the tree is a genuine solution to the undesirable impact of uncontrolled chemical pesticide and fertilizer usage providing a natural alternative to synthetic pesticides.

I Ketut Sudjana, head of Kedampal subak, told the Bali Daily, that at least 10 hectares of productive rice fields had dried as the subak channels had been destroyed as part of the road project.

“Both the Badung administration and the contractor [PT Dharma Niaga Karya] have no good intention — or maybe they are too arrogant to inform the local residents and farmers about their plans to expand the main road.”

On June 6, the farmers found that all the neem trees had already been cut down and the irrigation channels were blocked with wood from the trees, thus unable to distribute water to the rice fields.

I Made Mastra, a project supervisor, apologized saying that they (the contractor and the local administration) had sent a letter to the Kuta district office to get the necessary permits.

I Made Wana, head of seven subak organizations in Badung regency, demanded that the local authority disseminate the message and inform farmers and residents whose properties were affected the project.

“They cannot carry out this project without consulting with the local people here first,” Wana insisted.

Badung has seven subak organizations across Kerobokan, Mengwi, Abiansemal, Abianbase, Seminyak, Legian, Dalung, Muding and Petitenget.

The subak in Seminyak, Legian and Abianbase had almost gone and already been transformed into luxury housing complexes, villas, hotels and boutiques, he said.

“In these areas, subak is just history leaving only the names of the subak organizations and the subak temples, which still exist for ritual purposes. There are no rice fields or irrigation channels there,” Wana said in a sad voice.

Subak Kedampal still covered 97 hectares of rice fields, he said.

I Made Suarnata, executive director of Wisnu Foundation, claimed that the local government found it very easy to change any designated master plan governing green areas.

“Balinese farmers face critical threats from the government, greedy investors, middle men and other parties who want to possess their land,” said Suarnata, who is active in promoting sustainable farming and environmental issues.

“Instead of protecting the farmers and their rice fields, the government has chosen to compromise with the investors for the sake of financial benefit.”

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