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The lure of an island's sacred energy
Publication Date : 11-06-2012
More than 20 years ago, Indonesian coral reef conservationist I Gusti Agung Prana was spiritually amazed when visiting the sacred temples and beautiful coastal areas in faraway Pemuteran village in Buleleng regency, North Bali.
Located on the northwest coast of Bali, around 55 kilometres west of Singaraja and 30 kilometres from Gilimanuk in Jembrana, Pemuteran lies between a cluster of hills and the sea.
A number of old temples like Pura Pulaki, Pura Kerta Kawat and Pura Melanting are the island’s important worship places in the North.
"This place is called Nyegara-Gunung in Balinese language meaning the combination of sea and mountain areas,” Prana explained.
The Balinese believe that such places have extraordinary spiritual energy that brings harmony to the earth, the sea and to the people living there.
Prana said a decisive moment in his life was when he started to open a small-scale hotel for tourists, who, at that time, preferred to spend their holidays in the southern part of Bali like Kuta, Sanur or Ubud.
"Nobody wanted to come to this remote place, quite faraway from the glittering tourist hubs of Kuta,” he remembered.
But Prana was convinced that he received a kind of “spiritual call” to continue his venture.
A businessman by nature, Prana decided to do business in Pemutaran. “I was wondering if I could do more to help local people and to preserve this pristine environment by doing something useful,” he said.
Starting from the community, Prana encouraged local fishermen to alter their destructive fishing methods with more sustainable fishing techniques.
His fatherly approaches worked really well. “I always convince these fishermen to jointly preserve our precious marine habitat by practicing sustainable fishing. Many of them used hazardous cyanide bombs to catch fish while at the same time damaging the coral reefs and underwater life.”
Coral reefs in Bali have been severely damaged in recent years due to the irresponsible use of bombs and cyanide by fishermen. Increasing seawater temperatures linked to climate change and global warming are also blamed for the damage.
The Pemuteran area has the largest shallow reefs accessible to divers and snorkelers because of its lack of extremely strong currents and waves, seen in other coastal areas in Bali.
Together with locals, Prana launched the Pemuteran Coral Protection Foundation, which has been fully supported by marine scientists Thomas Goreau and Wolf Hilbertz.
"I asked for their assistance in restoring the shore, the coral reefs and also educating fishermen and the local community how to protect and to preserve our marine assets.”
Starting with the local community, the Pemuteran Coral Protection Foundation started to embrace all stakeholders in marine businesses such as dive shops, divers, hotels, marine scientists, environmentalists and fishery agencies to do the preservation of marine habitats and coastal areas in Pemuteran and its surroundings.
"It is a bottom-up community-based restoration and preservation effort,” he said.
For more than two decades, Prana and fellow members of the project have been active in educating and developing awareness of the importance of preserving their own natural resources and their main livelihoods. Over a period of 20 years, the nearly barren and damaged coral areas have been returned into a thriving reef full of coral, fish and other marine species.