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Sustaining the unsustainable? Environmental impact assessment and overdevelopment in Bali

Carol Warren and Agung Wardana

Keywords: environmental law; environmental impact assessment; democratization; public participation; Bali; Indonesia

Bali faces serious environmental crises arising from overdevelopment of the tourism and real estate industry, including water shortage, rapid conversion of agricultural land, pollution, and economic and cultural displacement. This article traces continuities and discontinuities in the role of Indonesian environmental impact assessment (EIA) during and since the authoritarian ‘New Order’ period. Following the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998, the ‘Reform Era’ brought dramatic changes, democratizing and decentralizing Indonesia's governing institutions. Focusing on case studies of resort development projects in Bali from the 1990s to the present, this study examines the ongoing capture of legal processes by vested interests at the expense of prospects for sustainable development. Two particularly controversial projects in Benoa Bay, proposed in the different historical and structural settings of the two eras—the Bali Turtle Island Development (BTID) at Serangan Island in the Suharto era and the Tirta Wahana Bali Internasional (TWBI) proposal for the other side of Benoa in the ‘Reform Era’—enable instructive comparison. The study finds that despite significant changes in the environmental law regime, the EIA process still finds itself a tool of powerful interests in the efforts of political and economic elites to maintain control of decision-making and to displace popular opposition forces to the margins.

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