Land reclamation on Serangan Island caused seagrass and mangrove disappearance and widespread coral damage, according to a 2004 report by the Partnership in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia and Bali Project Management Office. In the process, coral was extracted for construction in Serangan, Nusa Penida, and Candidasa, popular tourist destinations in and around Bali. This type of destructive development is a common practice.
Tourism is also contributing to a growing water crisis: A 2018 report by the International Tourism Partnership listed Bali as the tourist destination at highest risk for water scarcity. Sixty-five percent of Bali’s water is diverted for tourism purposes, according to a 2015 report by Stroma Cole, senior lecturer of international tourism development at the University of the West of England.
“Tourism has brought significant riches to the south, but groundwater is limited and reaching its limit, so the question arises: What happens when it runs out?,” Cole says. The rapid conversion of farmland and rice terraces to resorts also hinders rainwater filtering back through the soil. As a result, “flooding and runoff are huge problems in Bali,” according to Cole. Unreliable rain patterns, increasing temperatures, and rising sea levels caused by climate change are expected to worsen the issue. Development in particular increases the island’s climate vulnerability by destroying important natural barriers like mangroves.
Other tourist activities, like dolphin-watching tours at Lovina Beach in northern Bali, have more directly impacted biodiversity. Nearly 200 boats take visitors out to see dolphins every morning before dawn. While dolphin watching has taken place here for decades and is an important means by which locals earn a living, the many boats going out nowadays may hamper the dolphins’ feeding behaviors or make them more restless, explains Putu Liza Mustika, an Indonesian researcher and professor of tourism at James Cook University in Australia. “When I interviewed the older boatmen, they say that they used to see more species,” Mustika says. “In the past, the diversity was higher of what you could see.”