Links of interest for
Southeast Asia

Indonesia : Nusa Penida


Indonesia is the largest archipelago and the fourth most populous country in the world. Consisting of five main islands (Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua) with 33 provinces, 30 smaller archipelagos, it has a total 17,508 islands of which about 6,000 are inhabited. It stretches 5,150 km between the Australia and Asia continental mainlands and divides the Pacific and Indian Oceans at the Equator. The name Indonesia is composed of two Greek words: “Indos” which means Indian and “negos” meaning island. The capital city of Indonesia is Jakarta.

Totalling some 200, Nusa Penida is an island southeast of Bali separated by the Badung Strait. Administratively, the island is a district of Klungkung regency and there are two small islands nearby: Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. Almost all residents devote to Bali-Hindu religion and hold it as their culture. As such, there is the official government administration (Desa) and the other traditional culture system (Banjar) that has a much stronger influence on peoples daily activities. Virtually all community decisions are resolved using a Banjar leader and Hindu priest. The people have their own dances, puppetry, weaving arts and architecture. The interior of Nusa Penida is hilly with a maximum altitude of 524 metres and it is much drier than Bali. With a population of 45,000 residents, growing tourism, fisheries and seaweed farming industries, the Klungkung regency administration started drawing up a blueprint in 2008 for an integrated marine management plan for Nusa Penida to help tackle illegal fishing and prevent the destruction of coral reefs in the area.

Renewable Energy & Eco Housing

The grid on Nusa Penida is powered by a series of diesel generators with a peak load of 1.2 MW. In 2005 the state owned electricity company, PLN Indonesia, established a renewable energy park on top of a hill in Kelumpu village, in the highest Puncak Mundi area of the island. Seven wind turbines were erected in the park, each capable of generating 80 kWh and a solar plant able to produce 32 kWh. The turbines were installed to reduce the diesel fuel consumption of the island and their electric power output used to pump up underground water thus providing cheap healthy water for the community. The energy park was also processing pig manure to produce biogas and biofuel from the seed of Jatropha plants that can replace kerosene as fuel for cooking stoves. The Jakarta Post subsequently reported in December 2008 that due to technical factors the seven turbines had ceased operating but the solar plant continued to perform efficiently. The present situation is unknown.

Waste Minimisation & Recycling

Solid waste such as plastic bottles is perceived as one of the most serious environmental concerns threatening Nusa Penida. Some community groups do undertake regular beach/mangrove clean-ups and Eco Bali Recycling  widely promote environmental education in schools through various programs. Under the headline “Holidays in Hell: Bali’s Ongoing Woes”, Time magazine published a damning article  in April 2011 saying the resort island was struggling with waste and some of its famous beaches were strewn with rubbish. The head of Bali tourism agency acknowledged the island had a waste problem and said up to 300 garbage trucks a day were needed to collect rubbish in the Kuta area, a prime tourist spot. The head of Bali environment agency explained that the amount of waste accumulated in final landfills every day reaches between 5,000 and 5,500 cubic meters. If combined with the unmanaged waste in landfills, the total amount would hit between 10,000 and 15,000 cubic meters. In short, the problem is that the area of available landfills does not accommodate the quantity of daily waste produced. The environment agency is now looking to adopt waste management technology used in Singapore to help tackle the problem. Ironically, an Australian researcher 
has also written recently about how innovative projects in Bali point to ways Indonesia might deal with its growing waste management problem.

Water Management & Security

Nusa Penida has a long dry season (6-9 months) and village communities collect and store rainwater in huge underground reservoir tanks called ‘cubang’ for drinking and cooking. Other water supply comes from home wells, but the water is brackish. In 2007, P.T. Energy Management Indonesia  installed two solar reversed osmosis units for water treatment in two villages that are managed by local cooperatives. Prior to the system being installed, wealthier villagers bought mineral water for Rp.18,000 to Rp.20,000 per gallon. The production rate for the new unit is 90 gallons per day and the cooperative sell it for Rp.4,500 per gallon thus representing a considerable saving and enabling some small shops to add value by producing lemonade and other beverages. Half the generated revenue is used for operating expenses and maintenance costs with the other half used to finance community development projects.

Extensive Agriculture & Organic Food Production

The landscape of Nusa Penida is generally dry and highlighted by a series of limestone cliffs. Rice plantations don’t particularly flourish due largely to the lack of fresh water and thin topsoil. Rainfall is minimal and the central part of the island bears meagre crops of cassava and beans farmed to supplement the fresh supply of vegetables that are ferried from Bali daily. In 2010, Friends of the National Parks Foundation (FNPF) developed and presented an introductory course for producing compost and cattle fodder from organic material, including waste material. Approximately 50 participants came to this course which was not only attended by farmers but also by staff from the office of the Department of Cleaning and Parks – who take care of waste management on the island. FNPF hope by developing this course it can provide some solutions to address the difficulty for local farmers in finding food for livestock during the dry season and also to give knowledge to the farmers on how to improve their soil quality by demonstrating simple production techniques for making compost. The long term aim for this program is to minimize the incident of accidental fires that have repeatedly resulted from slash and burn farming practices, and also to reduce number of farmers burning grasslands at the end of rainy season to try to get good quality grass for their livestock.

As an alternative crop, locals, government authorities and environmentalists have been working hand-in-hand since the 1990s to cultivate seaweed as well as protect the coral reefs and extensive mangrove and seagrass habitats. Using a traditional planting method, villagers have successfully expanded their seaweed farming areas, especially throughout the northern coast of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida, as well as to the adjacent smaller island of Nusa Ceningan. They have also enforced a customary law system called awig-awig to regulate the planting method and ownership of the farming area. According to a 2009 Nature Conservancy (TNC) survey, close to 310 hectares has been dedicated to seaweed farming across the three islands, mostly of the Eucheuma Spinosum variety. These aquatic fields give the sea surrounding the islands a patchwork quilt look.

Farmers collect an average of 40 to 50 tons each harvest. The planting cycle lasts for 35 days. The price of seaweed has a tendency to fluctuate significantly, with Spinosum ranging between Rp 2,000 and Rp 2,900 per kilogram, and Eucheuma Cotonii between Rp 4,000 and Rp 5,300 per kilogram. Every farmer makes approximately Rp 300,000 from a 100 square metre area. These seaweeds are grown on submerged strings that are stretched between bamboo poles in the shallow, warm, nutrient rich waters. Villagers wade out into the shallows and fill their boats or large baskets with the seaweed. After harvesting the seaweed is laid out on tarps on the beach to dry in the sun, which can take a week depending on whether or not it is the rainy season. The dried seaweed is then collected and sent to Surabaya, East Java, and other big cities for further processing before being exported. As yet, farmers don’t have proper drying facilities or a processing plant to add value to their crop. Under the new Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation – see Biodiversity section - funding has been set aside to help seaweed farmers improve productivity, as part of the government’s target to boost seaweed production in Nusa Penida from 117,000 tons a year to 500,000 tons a year.


In order to get to Nusa Penida you have to take a trip to Padang Bay on Bali first and then cross Badung Strait using ‘Roro-Nusa Jaya Abadi’ the only ferryboat that takes an hour to reach Toya Pakeh village harbour. From there you can travel around the island by motorcycle, bemos or on the back of a truck. There are smaller public speedboats that depart from Padang beach and from Sanur beach. Quicksilver  run daily cruises from Benoa Harbour in Bali to a floating pontoon off Nusa Penida and their trip includes watersport activities.

Sustainable Tourism & Niche Marketing

The Bali Village Ecotourism Network (JED)  was launched in 2002 in response to the current mass tourism trends in Bali that have largely been encouraged by the Indonesian government (far away in Jakarta) and by foreigners. Few Balinese have been involved in the planning and management of the industry. Most profits from mass tourism go to wealthy entrepreneurs and corporations outside Bali, while the Balinese suffer the negative environmental and social impacts. JED was designed and is owned by the communities of four Balinese villages – Kiadan Pelaga, Dukuh Sibetan, Tenganan Pegringsingan and Nusa Ceningan  - with the administrative help of the Wisnu Foundation,  one of Bali’s oldest environmental NGOs. JED is a strong statement from four communities who want to decide for themselves the future of their people, their culture and their environment. Inviting visitors to their villages is a way not only to raise funds for cultural and conservation activities, but also to raise community esteem for these assets. It is an opportunity for villagers to share their pride in Bali with visitors, and present Bali as they know and love it, to the world.

On Nusa Penida itself there are some stunningly beautiful beaches and it is well worth climbing Puncak Temu to get a bird-eye view of villages through the lush vegetation. The island is now considered as a world-class diving destination with more than 20 identified dive sites. Tourism has therefore expanded rapidly in recent years, bringing boat traffic and new sources of income for local people providing homestays, hostels and restaurants. The village of Jungutbatu on Nusa Lembongan has around 600 families who aside from seaweed farming have also developed the mangrove forest into an attractive ecotourism site. The 230 ha forest has 13 species of mangrove as well as numerous bird species that tourists can enjoy on a traditional boat trip. With the support of TNC, which also provided seedlings and technical assistance, locals have intensified mangrove planting since 2003, mostly of the Rhizopora mucronata variety. 

Some traditional and sacred dances, some unique to Nusa Penida, are performed as well as various ritual ceremonies in connection with the cultivation and irrigation of fields. Also believed by the Balinese to be a powerful centre of black magic, a great many make the trip to this island every 210 days for the odalan (temple anniversary) for Pura Dalem Penataran Ped to placate spirits and seek protection from evil forces. This temple is the home of the dreaded Ratu Gede Nusa, spreader of the disease, evil, and patron saint of the leyak (witches) of Bali. Many Hindus come to this particular temple to seek relief when they consider that a certain sickness or misfortune has been caused by black magic. Another spiritual sanctuary visited by pilgrims is the sacred Giri Putri cave in Suana village. The mouth of this 262-meter-long cave is situated within a temple guarded by a shrine of three personification of Shiva (Shiva, Sada Shiva, and Parama Shiva) and an arca (holy relic) of Ganesha (the remover of all disturbances). The mouth of the cave is only 70 cm in diameter and pilgrims have to get inside one by one. Further into the cave, then the walls open out creating a massive room lit by lamps that can accommodate 1,000 people. From here, pilgrims pay homage to three clusters of shrines. The cave ceiling is filled with sharp-edged stalactites and inhabited by thousands of fruit bats.

Biodiversity & Protected Areas

Nusa Penida and its sister islands of Lembongan and Ceningan are a bird sanctuary. The idea came from a local vet and his Indonesian NGO, Friends of the National Parks Foundation (FNPF),  who envisioned the islands to be a natural safe haven where endangered birds could be released to rebuild their numbers, free from the threat of poachers. FNPF spent 2 years counselling all of the key people of influence on the Penida islands on the benefits of protecting birds and conservation. In 2006 all 35 villages (now 41 villages) unanimously agreed to make bird protection part of their traditional ‘awig-awig’ regulations, making it a social and spiritual obligation for all Penida residents to protect birds. Since then, FNPF has rehabilitated and released various Indonesian birds, most notably the critically endangered Bali Starling which is endemic to Bali but whose numbers in the wild had declined to less than 10 in 2005. After a 2 year program by FNPF in which 64 cage bred birds were rehabilitated and released onto Nusa Penida, their number had increased to over 100 in 2009. Other released birds include Java Sparrow, Mitchell's Lorikeet, Lesser Sulphur Crested Cockatoo and Red Lories. In return for this unanimous commitment by all villages to protect birds, FNPF runs a variety of community wellbeing/development projects. FNPF's office, visitor centre, nursery and guest accommodation is located in the the village of Ped, on the north side of Nusa Penida.

In 2010, a 20,057 hectares area around the Penida islands was declared a Marine Protected Area. Established as a collaborative effort by local residents, Klungkung regency administration, Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and FisheriesThe Nature Conservancy Indonesia Marine Program  and with the support of USAID Coral Triangle Support Partnership,  this MPA will contribute to the government’s target to protect coastal ecosystems and 20 million hectares of marine area by 2020. Thirteen million hectares are currently under protection. Establishing the protected area has also been hailed as a concrete step to implement the Coral Triangle Initiative that Indonesia established along with the Philippines, Malaysia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

TNC Indonesia’s survey of the Penida islands showed there was 1,142 hectares of coral reef, 230 hectares of mangrove forest with 13 species of mangrove, as well as 108 sea grass fields containing 8 species of sea grass. The MPA is home to 296 species of coral and 576 species of fish, with five identified as new species. The main objective of this new designation was to protect these rich tropical waters from destructive fishing practices carried out by fishermen using cyanide, explosives and gill-nets; waste dumping; coral mining and to better manage seaweed farming. Guidelines for marine tourism will also be drawn up and special zones set up for sustainable fishing practices, seaweed farming and tourism activities after community consultation. For example, little is known about the functional relationship between sea grass meadows and if they are being impacted by the expansion of seaweed farms. Many of these farms are placed directly above sea grass and this can lead to sea grass die off in these areas. Somewhat surprisingly, during preliminary investigations by environmental groups, inter-tidal sea grass was found to be surviving below seaweed cultured on ropes placed about 5cm from the sediment surface, despite the obvious shading. At other farms though there was no sea grass present underneath the seaweed cultures. A clear management imperative is to identify existing important sea grass habitats for fisheries and resident turtle and dugong and protect these from encroachment of seaweed farms. The proposed zoning plan for Penida MPA is a first step to ensuring sensitive marine habitats are protected from such impacts.

The construction of mooring buoys has already been effective at addressing the problem of diving and snorkelling boats from dropping their anchors on the corals. Scuba divers from around the world are attracted to these islands between July and September in the hope of seeing the Mola-mola, manta rays as well as migrating whales, dolphins and hawksbill turtles. Mola-mola is latin for ‘millet stone’ depicting the grey round flat shape which the fish embody. Their common names range from ‘sunfish’ (as they enjoy floating to the surface thermally recharging in the sun), to ‘moonfish’ (in reference of their moon like shape and colour) to ‘swimming head’ (creating misleading images of monster fish heads swimming around the ocean). Without a true tail fin and with huge dorsal and anal fins which they flap from side to side, they are not the most aqua dynamic of fish, which is why they tend to surrender to the currents, floating after their prey of jellyfish.

Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Measures

The National Council on Climate Change (DNPI)  was set up under a Presidential decree in 2008 and tasked to:

  • Formulate national policies, strategies, programs and activities on climate change control
  • Coordinate the activities in the implementation of control tasks that include climate change adaptation activities, mitigation, technology transfer and financing
  • Formulate a mechanism for setting policies and procedures for carbon trading
  • Carry out monitoring and evaluation of policy implementation on climate change control
  • Strengthen Indonesia’s position to encourage developed countries to take more responsibility in controlling climate change  

The DNPI has predicted that by 2100, 115 out of 17,508 islands in Indonesia would be submerged, rendering 800,000 homeless. It has also forecast that 287 out of 5,345 of Bali would be submerged by 2020 and this would double by 2080. There is already some evidence seaweed farmers are suffering from different sea conditions as a result of climate change. Community development group Kalimajari, which assist farmers in Nusa Penida, believe ocean temperatures have increased between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius in just a few years. This change has coincided with depleted stocks of Eucheuma and also the outbreak of a disease locally known as ais-ais, which causes seaweed stalks to decay although this could just be as a result of using the same strain of weed all year long. A report released in 2008 revealed that about 60% of the coral reefs around Nusa Penida have recovered from mass bleaching, a term which refers to whitening due to drastic temperature changes in the sea caused by climate change. This observation would support theories that a new generation of reefs resistant to climate change is quickly evolving.