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JAKARTA - At first it was the crunchy salad at The Legian's pool bar. It arrived resting on a large dish with a chunk of charcoal-grilled salmon cradled in its lush, green lap. Seasoned with the subtle aromatics found only on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, it became essential to find out the root of these fine-flavored leaves.
Yani Wongsowinoto, the assistant sales director, explained that all the vegetables and fruit served at The Legian are bought from one of the markets that sell organically grown greens. The second surprise was the minestrone soup at Papa's Café that tasted of such fresh vegetables and genuine tomato juice that we had to return for a second meal at the ocean front eatery specializing in Italian cuisine.
Ann Lee, a founder of the Sunrise organic food market suspects the kitchen at Papa's Café is buying organically grown vegetables. She is sure that The Legian is one of the few hotels where the management is keen to see Bali green and healthy. More than a year ago Ann volunteered to preside over the market held three mornings a week to create awareness of chemical-free farming.
Ann is part of a small circle of charmed expatriates who never want to leave Bali. Just like the expatriates of the 1930s, who were responsible for inventing Bali as the last paradise and in the bargain helped to attract the whole world to it, the ancestors of the same community are now trying to prevent the island of gods from becoming a living hell. Solutions are being sought to the growing problem of sewage that is dumped from most hotels directly into the ocean and the poisoning of the soil from the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
The Yayasan Membina Api Cinta Kasih or MACK, sponsor of the Sunrise Market was founded in 1998 to cultivate compassion among Bali's residents. The motto is that hopefully they can reflect the change they want to see in the world. A number of modest community projects are already underway including a kindergarten, the recycling of village garbage, sustainable food production, environmental, adult education.
It may seem that tourism sustains Bali but the fact is that at least 50 percent of the island's income comes from agriculture, points out an American who first visited Bali almost a decade ago. Over the years tourism has provided an instant source of income to many Balinese, especially poor fishermen and those displaced as a result of the massive changes brought about by rice-farming practices introduced during the Green Revolution.
But tourism has also contributed to widespread erosion and pollution of land and water here. The new varieties of rice are able to feed many more mouths but they are also more prone to pests and disease and depend on the plentiful use of fertilizers and pesticides. A close-to-the-heart activity among environmentalists is the Neem project, involving the use of natural pesticides that will also lead to reforestation.
It took an Italian with a master's degree in tropical agriculture to launch Raw Nature in the Bedugul area of North Bali. Together with Lotus Foods, Raw Nature is well known for getting fresh fruit and vegetables to the island's hotels, homes and restaurants. Another pioneer is Ibu Kartini, whose farm in the mountain area of Kintamani continues to inspire more and more farmers to keep their land free from chemicals. It is Ibu Kartini who is the leading spirit behind Andalan, the organizers of the Bali Buddhashop and home delivery service of organic food in Ubud. A similar café is to open in Sanur promising a wide variety of healthy, organic foods.
Alarmed at the devastating environmental impact of modern farming practices, declining agricultural productivity and the standard of living, the Bali Organic Growers Association (BOGA) was born last year. The organization employs the services of a qualified organic farm inspector to supervise the increasing activity of organic farm management and label practices that follow national standards in Australia.
To treat the sewage problem that make Jl. Kuta and Jl. Legian stink like a slum area, especially when it rains, a concept called H2O Solutions is offered. The technology developed by Jim Lombard has already been tested in other tropical countries such as Australia, Oman, Zimbabwe and the Philippines. Apart from mouth-watering tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and carrots, the information section at Sunrise Market is most interesting.
One flyer insists that 70 percent of the garbage in Bali is organic and can be turned into compost for private gardens. Workshops are also held where gardeners and maids are taught how to reduce household waste by 75 percent. The driving force behind Bali Fokus is Wayan Sukadana whose mobile telephone number is available to anyone wanting to dispose off their garbage in the right place. The organization has a pickup service for recycling plastic, paper, bottles, cans, tins. It also supplies bags and stands free of charge, which are emptied out once a week at designated times.
Concern for the degradation of Bali's environment is on the increase as the quality of water and air deteriorates and incidents of typhoid and typhoid-related diseases increase. Poison is said to be slowly seeping into the soil as deforestation erodes the earth. A group of radical environmentalists feel so enraged that out of desperation they have even prowled into hotel premises and secretly cut off pipes responsible for pumping sewage into the ocean.
Waste from fancy hotels with irresponsible management has been flowing into the water for decades, settling on coral reefs, which has adversely affected local underwater life. Most residents want to continue sharing Bali with visitors, "but not at the cost of watching the place destroy itself", said one member of a group who want to clean up congested Kuta beach.

Mehru Jaffer, Contributor, Legian, Bali

Posted in Environment @ 09 April 2002 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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