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Home » Destination and Resort, Environment & Nature

CLIMATE CHANGE: Carbon Credits From a Water Mill  

by on Thursday, 20 December 2007One Comment | 1,402 views

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

TENGANAN, Bali, Indonesia , Dec 19, 2007 (IPS) – When they next harvest the the terraced paddy fields on a gently sloping hill, the farmers in this village will reinforce a tradition that celebrates harmony between people and the environment — and do their bit to slow down climate change.

Credit, carbon or otherwise, must go to the young men in this community of some 200 families with a history going back centuries. For it were they who took the lead in building a micro-hydro power generator to produce electricity using run-of-the-river water to run a small mill to husk and polish locally grown rice.

”This generator can produce 12 to 15 kilowatts of power,” says Putu Wiadnyana, 25, the architect of the single-room micro-hydro generator, which is located near the shimmering green terraced fields along the eastern border of Tenganan. ”The mill should be ready by early next year in time for the next rice harvest.”

The plans for this micro-hydro system, which was ready for operation in November, began in 2004, when the village council realised that the prevailing practice of sending the locally grown rice to be husked at another mill was depriving this community of a steady chunk of income. The village was losing nearly 300 million rupiah (33,000 US dollars) from two rice harvests every year, according to one estimate.

But a financial saving was not the only driver that had motivated the youth who were members of the village council. They were drawn to the environment friendly alternative to a diesel-powered mill outside Tenganan.

”We learn from the time we are children about the need for balance between people and nature. This is also observed in the local laws we follow about the need to respect the environment,” says Komang Lonto, 28, who is the local coordinator of the Villages Ecotourism Network, which promotes green-friendly tourism on the resort island of Bali. ”This respect for nature is celebrated in our annual festivals, including the rice festival.”

Such respect for nature is rooted in the Hinduism that this community follows, as do the majority of the Balinese people. As a result, four types of fruits, including durian, cannot be plucked until they ripen and fall; nor can trees in the forest that cover the hills to the north of Tenganan be felled.

”This relationship with nature is part of the three harmonies in our Hindu faith that the people of this village abide by in their daily life,” says Imangku Widia, a 52-year-old temple keeper who plays a central role in some of the religious ceremonies. ”We have been protecting our environment like our ancestors did to ensure that a balance is always maintained. Destroying our surroundings will only mean an end of our culture and belief.”

The micro-hydro project is very much in line with these beliefs, adds Imangku, who sported a goatee. ”This project is about our potential to manage our own resources without destroying the environment. It is a way of restoring balance and satisfying our needs.”

The ease with which such views are accepted in Tenganan gains significance in the wake of the international conference for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that was held some 85 km away, in the tourist resort of Nusa Dua. At that major event, which drew some 11,000 participants, including ministers and government officials from nearly 190 countries, two weeks of discussions and negotiations focused on finding environmental friendly solutions to slow down a rapidly warming planet.

Among the solutions in the spotlight was for industrialised countries with a historical record of polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gases (GhGs) to earn carbon credits to offset their record of carbon dioxide emissions. A call for companies and governments in the industrialised world to invest in green-friendly initiatives in the developing world, such as micro-hydro projects, was one of them.

And how many people from Tenganan went for that conference? None, says Putu, the architect, adding with a wry smile, ”I don’t know what they talked there, but, maybe, we can say that we have been doing the things they are planning to do in the future because it is not something strange to us, living without harming nature.”

”Tenganan’s local culture is very inspiring in these times,” says I made Suarnatha, executive director of the Wisnu Foundation, an environmental group based in Bali. ”It shows the importance of turning to local wisdom and local solutions that communities are familiar with to protect the environment.”

His foundation is promoting similar thinking also prevalent in other communities on this deeply spiritual island to save it from an emerging crisis due to the heavy demand for natural resources to satisfy the thriving tourist trade. ”Bali’s environment problems are growing rapidly due to the demand for water and land use,” says I made.

The prospect of a water shortage does haunt the villagers of Tenganan, too. ”The micro-hydro system needs a flow of water from the river at a high level to function efficiently,” says Putu. ”We will have a problem if there is a trickle or the river runs dry.”

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