Gede Wisnaya Wisna and Silvia Binder
Another ‘paradise lost’ is in the process of being created at Lovina Beach, with the controversial location of a power plant at Pemaron village on Bali’s north coast.
The Buleleng district government has agreed to relocate a refurbished 30 year old diesel-powered steam-generating combined cycle power plant at Pemaron. The plant had been in use in Jakarta since 1972.
Heating up the reef
The power plant will require 530 tonnes of diesel fuel per day, for a power output of 100 megawatts. At full capacity, tankers will bring over 3500 tonnes of diesel per week and anchor in the open water only 300 metres from the beach. As there is no port facility in Pemaron, tankers will discharge the fuel through an underwater pipeline in the open sea. The fuel will then be pumped across the beach and rice fields to the plant in Pemaron, located in a densely populated area about 500 metres inland. Opponents argue that the risks of accidental diesel spill during the process of discharge are unacceptable. There is also the risk of catastrophic damage to the pipeline from seismic activity, strong tides, cyclones, fire, explosions, acts of terror, or collisions along the coastal area.
A planned further extension of the power plant will produce another 50 megawatts by using heat from the plant to produce steam. Up to 6000 cubic metres of seawater will be pumped to the power plant hourly for its cooling system. This water will then be pumped back to the delicate ocean ecosystem at a temperature of approximately four degrees celsius higher than the surrounding seawater. When this occurs, coral reef and plankton will die off, with a consequent loss of habitat for marine life.
Seven villages are located along Lovina Beach, noted for its black volcanic sand, its rich coral reef and its ‘mascots’, the spinner dolphins. The reef stretches from the capital, Singaraja, to the Menjangan Island Marine Park, a protected habitat for about 3500 marine species, only 60 kilometres away.
Damage to the local ecosystem would also threaten Lovina’s mixed economy of tourism, fishing and agriculture. Hotels and restaurants (mostly local) in the area provide jobs for more than 3000 people.
LP3B Buleleng (the Buleleng branch of the Institute for the Assessment and Empowerment of Bali’s Development) argues that the location of the plant in Lovina is a serious threat to the entire coastal area. These risks threaten the livelihoods of the local fishers, farmers and tourist industry. After several test runs of the refurbished first stage plant, Lovina Beach has already suffered a fuel spill and noise levels far exceeding those promised in the 2001 environmental impact assessment.
In 2001, Bapedalda, the government agency that reviews the environmental suitability of projects, recommended the power plant be built at Celukan Bawang, a designated industrial area in the west of Bali. It referred to the environmental risks, the objections of the local population and the fact that Lovina is a declared tourist zone.
The district of Buleleng uses only seven per cent of Bali’s total power supply, whereas 80 per cent of the island’s electricity is consumed in the south. Bali’s interconnected electricity grid means that it doesn’t matter where power plants are located, so critics argue that it is irrational to build a power plant in the north of Bali. In addition to environmental concerns, the high costs of transportation of the diesel fuel (from east Bali to north Bali) will mean the general public will pay higher prices for electricity. The plant will cost about US$ 9 million per year more to run at Pemaron than it would at the alternate location of Pesanggaran on the south coast.
LP3B Buleleng argues that the decision to build the Pemaron plant was never a transparent one, and has transgressed good corporate governance and democratic procedures.
Everybody is talking enthusiastically about democratic values, transparency and anti-corruption. But in this case the voices of the Lovina community have been ignored. They still await an open and honest public dialogue about the power plant at Pemaron, the general issue of power shortage, and more environmentally friendly means of dealing with it.
Gede Wisnaya Wisna (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the head of LP3B Buleleng. Silvia Binder (email@example.com) is a foreign investor in tourism at Lovina Beach. They are spokespersons for an environmental coalition of three NGOs: WALHI Bali, LP3B and WGPSR (Working Group for Power Sector Restructuring). They are seeking help in their resistance to the plant at Pemaron through a letter-writing campaign. Further information on the Pemaron issue and sample protest letters can be found at: www.bali-in-danger.net.