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Moving towards a more resilient, inclusive tourism-based green economy recovery in Bali

Blog | Sun, 21 Mar, 2021 · 7 min read
A classical Balinese Subak landscape, showing the vegetation removed from the upland.

As extreme weather events become more regular, climate change has an increasingly significant impact on people’s livelihoods in Bali. With an economy based primarily on tourism, extreme weather events, and now the ongoing pandemic, have threatened the growth of that sector. The island is now more vulnerable to forest fires, smoke pollution and drought, and this has had a negative impact on tourism and on the Bali economy. Approximately 80% of the population is either directly or indirectly involved in the tourism sector for their livelihoods.

According to a recent study, an increase in the likelihood of cyclones in the Indian Ocean impacted weather events across Southern Indonesia. In 2017, for example, two cyclones resulted in a daily rainfall event at Gunung Kidul of over 750% above the historical average, the highest ever recorded. Also in 2017, a landslide in the highlands of Kintamani Bali resulted in the deaths of 12 people and a significant loss of farm land. The Kintamani area is prone to landslides due to its geology and the changing of land use from tree crops and forests to shallow rooted annual vegetable crops.

Agricultural production systems have changed dramatically, from the traditional Abian Subak agroforestry system to intensive farming. Whereas the Abian Subak system ensured the highland slopes were protected with tree crops and forests to ensure a reliable supply of water for irrigation and household needs, more intensified farming systems are based on the removal of forest and replacing tree crops with fast growing, high yield annual crops, like vegetables, to supply the tourism market. Unfortunately, as a result of the pandemic and the significant drop in tourism, the demand for vegetables has been significantly reduced, with farmers now realizing they should not rely on vegetables for income.

The slowdown in Bali’s economy, as a result of COVID-19, provides an opportune time for the government and people of Bali to rebuild a more resilient economy that builds on its traditions, indigenous knowledge and tourism.

The foundations are already in place at the community level through the Abian Subak, Desa Adat and Bali’s cultural systems. What needs to be done now is to align government policies and resources and to engage a broad number of stakeholders.

Value chain creation process is generated through REDD+ sustainable value chains can be accelerated if there is a link between the private sector active in the tourism sector, under upcoming national legalization on the economic value of carbon this will enable jurisdiction to organize internal off sett mechanism, in the case of Bali, tourism is the major emitting sector tourism generated offsets will enable Bali to offer climate neutral tourism as a pathway for recovery out off the pandemic crisis. While at the same time, generating a performance based revenue stream that enable communities to restore there degraded landscapes, through these offsets an ecosystem recovery approach based on carbon sequestration. This approach is similar to the UNEP Green Wall initiative, in which the IOC off sets the Olympic game’s emissions through restoring land in the Sahel.

In Bali, a similar approach can be established by providing visitors with the opportunity to offset emissions and in doing so, contribute to the restoration of a unique Balinese approach towards ecosystem management, which can enhance the resilience of the overall economy to climate change and climate risks.

The proposed approach, aimed at community participation in decision-making processes and direct involvement in tourism management and development, is a key step towards achieving sustainability through local capacity development. International experience has shown that tourism should not expand at a rate beyond which citizens in a given community can control. As tourism seems to be more effective than other industries in generating employment, opportunities and income in the less developed, often peripheral, regions of a country where alternative opportunities for development, the approach above, based on new developments in establishing internal off sett mechanism for carbon.