The Dilemma of Tourism Development: Reflection from Height Restriction Regulation in Bali, Indonesia


The rapid development in the tourism industry has raised the concern in sustainable developments as well as cultural preservation. As the most popular tourism destination in Indonesia, Bali is also facing the dilemma of tourism development. Since the early 1980s, the development of tourism in Bali has increased the number of tourism facilities such as hotels, restaurants, and resorts. The massive development is needed due to the demand of the high number of tourists that come to Bali. In 2012, three million tourists come to Bali, and it was almost half the number of total eight million tourists who come to Indonesia at the same year (Parker, 2013). Tourism in Indonesia has a significant role especially in terms of providing jobs and enhancing economics conditions.

The development in the tourism industry affects has good effects as well as bad ones. What makes Bali different to others, is the richness of culture that was built upon their religious society, since Bali is dominated by the traditional Hinduism culture and belief. Therefore, the tourism development in Bali should be able to consider the rich culture as well as the local wisdom of Balinese that is embedded in their everyday life. Furthermore, “Tri Hita Karana” is a well-known traditional philosophy for life that is used by Balinese in many aspects including agriculture, human interactions, irrigation systems as well as architecture. The concept of “Tri Hita Karana” is derived from Balinese spiritualism beliefs which include the three tied harmonious relationships: among people, environment, and God (Suwetha, 2015).

Built upon this local wisdom, in order to minimize the uncontrolled tourism development and preserving local culture, the local government has issued a local regulation. In 1970, the Bali Province confirmed a regulation of a building height restriction of 15 meters, or to not go over the height of coconut palm trees (Sudewa, 2012). It seemed to be an effective regulation since there were yet to be a high-rise building built in Bali, except Grand Bali Beach Hotel in Sanur (10 storeys) that was built in 1963 before the application of the law. This regulation is still applied and appears in Bali Detailed Spatial Plan (RTRW) 2009-2029, in the article number 95, verse 2, point b. Moreover, the regulation does not affect public buildings such as towers of religious building, electrical towers, lighthouses, and aviation buildings.

The ongoing debate over this local regulation was started in 2009 when the Governor of Bali, Mangku Pastika suggested to revise the height restriction regulation. In fact, 15 meters in height was recommended by SCETO, a Franc Consultant in 1970 (Sudewa, 2012). However, it has a high consensus from academicians, humanists, observers, media, and decision makers in Bali. They mostly argue that exceeding the currently imposed height limit could be detrimental to the local culture. On the other hand, the dilemma is caused by high demands of settlements in Bali due to population growth and urbanization. The pressure is not only from Balinese, but also from outsiders who continuously come to Bali to settle and look for jobs Through an economic lens, it is hard to support height restriction regulations. The increasing success of a city will result in more density, sprawling development, and risk for the market pricing, especially for middle and lower class residents. That seems extreme, especially in a city like Bali with a population of more four million people like Bali (Matus, 2013). Moreover, height restriction in Bali potentially caused a horizontal development. It will later change the current landscape of Bali because of functional land shifts in Balinese vital areas such as agriculture, forests, and sacred areas. The idea of increasing the height restriction will affect to decreasing of the capital of tourism in Bali, that is culture (Ramantha, 2009).

Height restriction regulation is not something new in urban debates. We can find it in Greenwich Village Historic District in New York with its 12-storeys regulation, the Countryside in Germany that should not exceed the cathedral tower in height, Central of France with a 25-meter height restriction, and most off all, in Mumbai, India with just 1.3-storeys regulation (Sudewa, 2012). In a glance, these regulations are thoughtful especially in terms of balancing between planning agendas, the environment, and local characters.

Furthermore, coconut palm trees have a significant role and meaning in Hinduism religion. Their existence in the Hinduism ritual is critical, and it has a metaphoric meaning that goes beyond just a coconut. The deep insight of coconut trees is that the development should realize the tangible limitation, what is permitted and what is prohibited, especially on the relation to “Tri Hita Karana” (Nurbawa, 2011). The challenge to keep this regulation is clear. A future development approach is inevitably needed to deal with this issue. The main aspects to consider in order to develop this regulation include: Firstly, the Building Code, the existing from local regulation No. 5 in 2005 needs to be developed (Gantini, 2009). Secondly, since Balinese are aware of what happens in their land, a public participatory planning should be applied to the approach. The later is commonly used in the developed country, which is to synergize between government will and public needs, and more importantly, the public can then participate to control the development.

This essay was written as a part of the 2016 OSAKA Invitational Program for Short-Term Overseas Trainees in Architecture and Arts. 

Discussion Theme : Landscape Policy through Traditional Architecture and Historical Townscape

Discussion Members : OFIX Trainees 2016, Osaka Prefecture Government Staff


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