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Photo: Tegenungan Waterfall, Gianyar

The all-important ‘dollar’ has become a threat to cultural conservation sites in the island of Bali according to Gianyar’s Regent, Anak Agung Gde Agung Bharata, who told reporters recently much of the local land is now owned by foreign (domestic and international) enterprises.

“Cultural conservation can be difficult if people are not even aware of its importance from the beginning. We have to appreciate our culture’s diversity and not be defeated by the ‘dollar’. But that’s what we feel is happening right now,” said Bharata on Thursday (13/04), as quoted by Uzone.

The Regent stated that culture and religion in Bali are one and the same. The Balinese culture may not become extinct but could possibly be neglected due the temptation of the power of the dollar as he mentioned the land in Bali that has been converted to hotels and other commercial establishments. The percentage of Balinese owning land has become very small according to the Gianyar regent.

“It’s going to be sad to see Bali inundated with hotels and malls in the future. Especially if they are located next to rivers, even now the numbers are worrisome,” he said. He asked for people to be more appreciative of the richness of the local culture and past heritage, particularly since Gianyar recently was listed as a World’s Heritage City.

Hashim Djojohadikusuma, Head of the Indonesian Heritage Conservation Organization, concurred that the threat to cultural sites is growing. He suggested that there should be a task force to help guard and conserve these heritage sites, and stated that they could prove financially beneficial to the community in the long run.

For an example, he mentioned China, who in the last 30 years, has seen so many of their cultural sites demolished in order to build malls etc. But then they saw that tourists weren’t interested in visiting these malls because they’re all almost the same in every country. What happened afterwards was that the developers then replaced those malls by building new temples. Hashim hoped that cases like this wouldn’t happen in Indonesia.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “They demolished those old heritage sites to build malls just for money, but then they flattened those same malls and built new temples. I hope that doesn’t happen here. We will regret it when our heritage sites are lost.”