Friday, April 22, 2011

HECTOR'S BALI times DIARY, Apr. 22, 2011

How to Stop
Being Bugged
by a Catastrophe
of Caterpillars

We can all relax, apparently. Researchers in Bali believe they have found a nice, non-chemical way to combat the caterpillar outbreak. Doubtless this will interest those who run the island’s weekly English-language newspaper from Ireland and Singapore; last week’s edition led with a story on the catastrophe, but perhaps that’s what happens when you bugged out long ago.
    According to Putu Sudirta of Udayana University’s faculty of agriculture, the idea is to use the caterpillars themselves to kill other caterpillars. He told Viva News this week they can be made to host parasitoids, a parasite that either sterilises or kills the host. The parasites are injected into captured caterpillars which are then released to spread the breeding-stopper to other caterpillars.
    The science of this is well known and widely practised in pest and disease vector control and in that regard is unremarkable. But we got a giggle out of the view, expressed by Sudirta, that Udayana expects Bali’s department of agriculture, crops and food to “instruct” residents to go out and capture as many of the little beasties as possible and taken them along to the university.  Given that Bali’s population won’t be instructed about anything much at all – for example about looking after their dogs so that they’re well fed and healthy, not to mention neutered and fully protected against rabies and other animal diseases about which there is astonishing continued ignorance – all we can say is good luck.
    Another Udayana academic, Wayan Supartha, head of the university’s integrated pest management laboratory, makes a good point though:  These efforts are in line with maintaining the ecological balance in Bali by avoiding the use of chemical pesticides.

Another Tragedy

Bali’s latest rabies death – that of a 12-year-old schoolboy from Buleleng in the north of the island who was bitten five months ago as he walked home after classes and told no one about it – prompted recall of a sad (and sadly unremarkable) story we heard the other week from a doctor. He told us his hospital – and apparently others – do not offer pre-exposure prophylactic rabies vaccinations because the Indonesian product they use is not safe. He related the case of one man who had had the pre-exposure course who went on to develop rabies symptoms, though not apparently fatally. It was more than just the statistical probability of a very bad reaction, we gathered.
    It’s not clear what Bali’s rabies toll is, other than that it’s around 130 or possibly more, since an isolated outbreak at Ungasan on the southern Bukit in mid-2008 was allowed to spread island-wide by Bali’s shambolic and shamefully inept bureaucracy. Perhaps someone knows; maybe some clerk is keeping a tally. But our guess would be that the true number is known only unto God.
    The conversation arose because here at The Cage we’ve had the pre-exposure vaccine, the imported French one from an international clinic, as a necessary precaution since we daily walk among the sick and the lame in these parts, aka the local dog population.
    Rabies is untreatable once symptoms appear. If you die of the disease in an Indonesian hospital you do so disgustingly, roped to a bed (if you’re lucky) to restrain the maddened paroxysms that precede a short coma and merciful death.

Wink, Wink

We saw an item in The Beat Daily this week – the electronic news update put out by the friendly crew at The Beat magazine, a journal dedicated to publicising good times – spruiking the delights of the Blue Eyes disco on the bypass at Sanur.
    That’s the place, co-located with one of the many nonconforming and improperly licensed hotels here, where if you hire a VVIP room for your private karaoke party you can also pay for private dancers who’ll show you a lot more than they’re allowed to in the public areas of the establishment.
    Some months back there was a lovely story in the local press that related how police charged with putting a stop to unseemliness within the raucous environment of Blue Eyes felt it their duty to keep gathering evidence until the comely little gaggle of “dancers” had rather fully revealed the totality of their attributes before blowing the whistle.
    Bet the team drew lots for the inside jobs on that operation.

Stuffed Goose

Indonesia earned $US7.6 billion in foreign exchange from tourism alone last year according to the Department of Tourism and Culture. And this year, according to a report in the Indonesian language newspaper Bisnis Bali, tourism minister Jero Wacik is targeting even more, $US8.5 billion.
    He bases this arithmetic on an average daily arrival figure of 4,500 foreign tourists and up to 7,000 a day at peak holiday times. Around 40 percent of all foreign tourists to Indonesia come to Bali, which is acknowledged as the country’s biggest tourism draw. The government wants to persuade visitors to see more than Bali, however, especially Lombok and Java which are easily reached from our island.
    That’s fair enough. It’s even a good plan, if there is actually a plan. Lombok is making a big pitch for tourists as part of West Nusa Tenggara province’s target of a million visitors in 2012.  But it and other places need to get their tourists direct, not via Bali, if they want to build a sustainable tourism presence whose growth does not depend ultimately on Bali’s capacity to cope.
    AirAsia is adding a fourth daily Perth-Bali service to meet demand. There are reports the airline is planning to fly Kuala Lumpur-Mataram direct and hopes that a Perth service might join the list soon. It can’t be soon enough, paradoxically, for Bali. If current growth rates keep up we’ll have a population of more than five million in 2015. Badung, the most populous regency – it stretches from Mengwi between Denpasar and Tabanan in the north to the Bukit in the south and includes the KLS conurbation (Kuta-Legian-Seminyak) – grew by 4.63 percent in 2010, versus the national population growth rate of 1.49 percent.
    We see the result in overloaded – and woefully inadequate – infrastructure. The outlook, for anyone other than a realtor or a foolish optimist, is less than happy.

Drug House

Bali may soon have its own drug rehabilitation facility, only the second such institution in Indonesia, under plans announced this week by the national narcotics agency (BNN). Ketut Budiarta, head of BNN in Bali, said it would be built next door to the island’s only psychiatric hospital, at Bangli, where limited numbers of drug users are already treated.
    Plans call for a start on building the 144-room rehab centre in 2012. If it eventuates it will be a significant enhancement in the battle against addictive drugs. At present most drug offence prisoners are sent to Kerobokan, the island’s main jail, where they make up more than 40 percent of inmates. The prison holds three times more than its design capacity of prisoners.
    The project has the support of Governor Made Mangku Pastika, who once headed the BNN, who said this week:  “We don’t have adequate facilities to rehabilitate or treat drug users. It is inhumane to send them to Kerobokan Penitentiary. When they enter the prison they are drug addicts, but when they leave they will be drug users and traffickers.”
    He’s on the button there.

Oh, That Island

Someone seems to have woken up to the fact that Nusa Lembongan, the laidback surfing and relaxation island off Nusa Penida, is cracking under the strain of tourist numbers. The island has a population of 4,000 but tourists – both domestic and foreign – number 10,000 a month.
    Klungkung Regency, which administers Lembongan and Penida, has been alerted to the problem by legislators in the regency assembly who have pointed out the blindingly obvious: that the island’s infrastructure cannot cope.
    They want the regency to spend more of its budget on the tourism icon and to clamp down on unlicensed – and therefore unregulated – accommodation places.

Novel  Idea

The busy beavers at the Bali Peace Park Association in Perth, who only like to tell you good news (and therefore tell you basically nothing) and resolutely refuse to be accountable, announced this month that international terrorism and security expert Anne Aly has joined them as “Western Australian ambassador.”
    Aly, who was born in Egypt but migrated to Australia with her family at the age of two, is an author – she focuses on countering radicalism – and is a member of the Council for Australian-Arab Relations.  She has an arts degree from the American University in Cairo.
    We’re sure she’ll be an asset to the team. But the main focus of efforts should surely be to raise the money required to settle the association’s land dispute with the man who holds the lease on the former Sari Club site in Legian, where it says its peace park will be built by October this year.
    This chap, who drives a Jaguar as well as a hard bargain, apparently has other ideas. That’s Kadek Wiranatha, whose empire encompasses several eateries, some “under renovation,” places of entertainment, and the fortnightly Bali Advertiser publication. It was he who launched (and then presided over the collapse of) the former island airline, Air Paradise.
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