Fortifying Bali

The government of Bali has come up with an ingenious plan to ward off the effects of global warming and rising sea levels: fortification. At the present rate of building seawalls, the island will be fortified well in time before polar ice caps melt into oblivion, taking island nations like the Seychelles and Mauritius along with them as an article in the Jakarta Post explains.

We won’t need pornography bills to stop people sunbathing in near-nothing on the beach. There simply won’t be much beach left.

Not at high tide, anyway.

It’s early days yet, but with the recent government success in curbing the island’s drinking problem (notice all the wine stores closing?) I must say nothing is beyond their amazing foresight and impeccable planning.

The cup isn’t half-full after all. It’s overflowing! With confidence!
It’s most definitely celebration time.

Champagne, anybody?

Whoops, I forgot that we’ve run out of that, too.

Walking the 40-minutes along the beach home from a pleasant afternoon at Merthasari yesterday, I came up with a new name for our Department of Public Works (Pekerjaan Umum). I think Pemborosan Umum (Public Wasting) is much more appropriate.

As they won’t even need to change their acronym, PU, most people wouldn’t even blink or notice.

Here’s their grand plan (as divulged by informants): There is to be a beachside road connecting the derelict Taman Festival Bali amusement park to the existing Sunrise Walkway.

The road will wipe out the fragile sand-dune ecosystem protecting the coastline, to be replaced by a rock wall made of giant boulders weighing about a ton apiece.

The Sunrise Walkway is their shining beacon of success. The sand along that walkway is white, a clue that the limestone walls protecting it are in turn protected from the open sea by coral reefs.

The sand along the proposed rock wall and road, however, is black, supplied by the nearby Ayung River. It is open to the brute force of the sea, not to mention the monsoon moods of Ayung flooding.

At the southern approach, the sea is already chewing up an existing road built on a foundation of limestone. The protecting wall of soccer-ball sized rocks didn’t do much once the sand in front of it had been scoured by waves. They collapsed in an unspectacular manner like krupuk prawn crackers going limp after sprinkled on top of bubur ayam (chicken porridge).

And our PU officials (I dare not say “engineer” in honor of the profession) think that bigger is better and stronger. One-ton boulders shouldn’t be movable by waves.

Correct me if I’m wrong, don’t big boulders follow the law of gravity? Somebody seems to have forgotten.

The boulders have been placed on a slope upon a foundation of sand. Pray tell, what happens when a wave washes on a rock sitting on sand? The sand is washed away.

Sure, in some places the boulders actually touch the solid clay beneath, but when I finished inspecting a section of the erected wall, I hopped off a tall boulder to find myself knee-deep in wet sand.

The wet sand was once of the dry fluffy kind that absorbed the impact of waves.

Seawalls deflect waves, which rebound from the sea as bigger waves still. Bigger waves that scour out more sand, or whatever it can.

No matter the size of the boulder, when it’s got nothing holding it underneath, it will roll down into the sea to become yet another hazard for surfers, but that’s a different story. Rumors abound that someone high up wants to invest in setting up beachfront (soon-to-be rockfront) apartments.

To me, the quest for harmony espoused by the Balinese concept Tri Hita Karana is literally the three reasons for beauty. It is awareness of how we are all interlinked, and how maintaining all those relations is important in order to have beauty in life.

Officials in Bali use this worldview to extol how harmonious the Balinese are with their (1) Fellow men and women, (2) Environment, and (3) God.

Hogwash. Devoid of such simple things as common sense, community consultation and assessment of environmental impacts, this beautiful sand castle is being washed away by waves of empty rhetoric.

Looking at the big picture, there are many reasons why the beach is losing its sand.

Cleopatra’s descendants will tell you that the Nile Delta retreated after the completion of the Aswan Dam, its waters intensively used for irrigation.

Similarly, the Ayung Delta is retreating because its banks are tamed and its waters diverted. She is no longer delivering as much sand to the sea margins.

Seawalls and large-scale ocean reclamation to make more land have changed tidal and wave patterns. Good bakers know that changing the direction of whipping the batter spoils the cake.
Well, the Bali cake is crumbling.

Haphazard additions to the irrigation network along the coast have forced several new streams to break through the protective sand dunes, exposing the clay underneath.

Vegetation struggling to hold the sand down is trampled daily by surfers, romping lovers, martial arts groups, soccer players, revelers and vendors.

The gentle forces of nature and men’s many wee hands and feet have taken their toll.

Brute force to the rescue!

Source: Jakarta Post