Jammed Bali looks for solutions


The popularity of Bali Island has for years translated into road congestion due not only to the multiplication of tourist busses but also the lack of parking facilities, of proper public transport, and the undisciplined behavior of most local drivers who park their vehicles at their convenience. All of these elements make circulation in Bali a nightmare.

It takes regularly over an hour in the evening to ride along the 21 km separating the popular beach resort of Kuta to the famous temples of Tanah Lot. In fact, places such as Legian, Denpasar, Kuta, or Ubud are jammed most of the afternoon with traffic regularly coming to a complete standstill. Tourism figures have rocketed over the last decade, growing from 1.399 million in 1999 to 2.229 million last year, up by almost 60 percent, not to mention some three million domestic tourists.

Added to a local population of 3.5 million inhabitants, Bali Island has to support in the year the movements of almost ten million people. While tourism development has been limited to only three regencies due to a 1988 decree, most of the congestion is consequently concentrated where tourists are, from the airport/Nusa Dua area to Sanur, Kuta, and Legian.

But as usual, Indonesia’s central government and provincial authorities have not been able to tackle the problem of growing congestion. So far, plans to improve the situation have only remained at the good-wish level.

Bali Governor I. Made Mangku Pastika came out over the last year with some plans to cope with the increasing congestion. Earlier this year, the governor mulled out the option of building overpass highways, following their endorsement by religious authorities. Until recently, religious leaders maintained that elevated highways, pedestrian bridges, or underground tunnels violate Balinese religious principles. In the past, these religious restrictions linked to petty bureaucracy, rebuked a group of Malaysian investors to build four toll roads, which would have connected Sanur and Nusa Dua, cutting traveling time from 45-60 minutes to less than 15 minutes, as well as Bali airport to Nusa Dua. The project was estimated to cost US$440 million.

With religious restrictions now being lifted, the governor expects to be able to start the first overpass projects by this year for an opening by 2011 and 2012. Priority development would still concern the airport area and Nusa Dua area, as well as Denpasar, the capital.

Another option is to develop a rail circle line, which would offer a reliable alternative for locals and tourists to move around the island. The system would stop at major tourism objects and would require less land use than highways. The proposal has also received the support from Bali Governor Pastika.

Meanwhile, the island must also tackle with the increasing congestion at Bali airport. Recently, Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism Jero Wacik pleaded for a quick expansion of Ngurah Rai International Airport. The process to a brand new international terminal has been delayed due to polemics on its design with Balinese authorities asking for a more Balinese identity. The Bali Airport project would double total capacity to 20 million passengers a year. The current terminal would be converted to the domestic airport, following the opening of the new 120,000 sqm international facility. The cost of investment is estimated at US$185 million. Authorities are also entertaining the option for a second airport on the northern part of the island.