An ongoing beach conservation project along Pererenan beach in Badung has stirred controversy among surfing enthusiasts. They fear that the man-made construction will ruin one of the island’s favorite surfing points.
The project involves the construction of a revetment, or retaining wall, a permeable, sloping structure made of natural stones and concrete, designed to hold the beach’s sandy shoreline in place and prevent further erosion.
Photos: Iuri Borba
A similar method has been employed to protect Padanggalak, a strip of beach north of Sanur known as the primary site for nearly 50 customary villages to hold their annual melasti purification ritual. Bali has suffered severe environmental degradation at some of its popular tourist beaches due to erosion and uncontrolled development.
“It is being called a beach conservation project, but in the end it will destroy the very beach it tries to protect,” noted surfing figure Piping Irawan said, urging the local administration to review the Rp 4.2 billion (US$445,200) project, which is funded through the central government’s budget.
He pointed out how similar conservation projects in the past had created an adverse impact on the beaches. The construction of revetments, or any kind of massive man-made structure, including wave breakers that have been installed in Sanur and Kuta, would significantly change the course and intensity of the waves and currents.
“At the beach in front of Discovery shopping mall in Kuta, the presence of the wave breakers has literally killed the waves. Previously, it was a favorite surfing point because it had stunning waves that often soared twice the height of an adult man. Nowadays, the waves only reach knee height,” he said, adding that a similar phenomenon had also taken place at Echo beach and other beaches where wave breakers had been installed.
Pererenan beach holds a special place in the hearts of surfers due to the diverse types of waves it offers.
“There are so many wave variations present in Pererenan that a surfer could execute any style he knows on that beach,” Piping said, adding that the beach draws dozens of surfers daily.
“During holiday season, hundreds of surfers flock to the beach, mostly Japanese surfers,” he said.
He suggested that the local administration use the natural method of conserving the beach, instead of constructing a massive man-made structure that would certainly cause greater damage in the long run.
“They should consider planting mangrove and pandanus along the shoreline. These plants have been proven very effective in preventing sea erosion,” he said.
He warned that the revetment would turn Pererenan beach into a hell for surfers.
“It is saddening that the island is losing its surfing points one by one. Eventually, there will be no surfers visiting this island.”
Construction on the revetment commenced a few days ago. Heavy machinery has begun the initial stage of the project, which is slated for completion in 180 days.
Provincial public works agency head I Ketut Artika denied that the project would damage the beach.
“There was an extensive review before the project got the green light. Instead of damaging the beach, it will rehabilitate the beach and prevent further erosion,” he stressed.
Project leader I Wayan Riasa went as far as claiming that the revetment would not alter the waves in any way. “And the local communities have given their approval to this project,” he said, adding that many locals had complained about losing their property due to severe erosion.
In the first stage, the revetment will be constructed along 150 meters of shoreline.