Indonesian minister declares Benoa Bay as maritime conservation area, but activists believe decision not yet final

Indonesia’s Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti has officially declared Benoa Bay as a maritime conservation site. Photo: Don Emmert / AFP
Indonesia’s Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti has officially declared Benoa Bay as a maritime conservation site. Photo: Don Emmert / AFP

Indonesia’s Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti has officially declared Benoa Bay as a maritime conservation site. The decision came after years of resistance against reclamation of the area, which had sparked a movement made up of concerned locals from different facets of Bali’s society. 

“The struggle that we have long been fighting for, [we] from different elements of our community, has now received a concrete answer from the Minister of Maritime Affairs. Benoa Bay is to become a maritime conservation area,” Bali Governor I Wayan Koster said yesterday.

Koster explained that cancellation of the controversial reclamation project is laid out in a Ministerial Decision, which was reportedly signed by Susi on Oct. 4. It stipulates that around 1,243 hectares of the Benoa Bay area are to be made into a conservation site. 

In August, Koster issued a formal letter urging state-owned port operator PT Pelabuhan Indonesia (Pelindo) III to stop the reclamation of Benoa Bay, after the project was found to have destroyed 17 hectares of mangrove forest in the area. 

The governor told reporters that was followed by a suggestion from his office, addressed to Susi and issued on Sept.11, to declare Benoa Bay as a conservation site. 

“For me, this is an extremely beautiful area. Reclamation will ruin it. First, it will destroy the environment. I don’t think this is appropriate,” Koster said, as quoted by Kumparan.

While this might be hailed as a victory for the movement led by the Balinese People’s Forum to Reject Reclamation (ForBALI), the organization said in a statement that the Ministerial Decision is “not enough.” 

“ForBALI holds the view that the Ministerial Decision on Benoa Bay as a Maritime Conservation Area is not enough to fully establish Benoa Bay as a conservation site,” the statement said. 

Launched in 2013, the movement consistently took to the streets and highlighted concerns that the reclamation project will have damaging impacts on the environment. 

ForBALI highlighted that a 2014 Presidential Regulation (Perpres), which was issued by former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, remains instrumental in that it changed the status of Benoa Bay to a commercial zone from a designated environmental buffer zone and green-belt area. 

“All elements of Balinese society must continue to work hard and fight to truly ensure that Benoa Bay has a strong legal foundation to become a maritime conservation site,” ForBALI emphasized. 

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