For centuries, the Balinese society has been known for its unique tradition that significantly influences environmental conservation. This harmony between beliefs, society, and nature is evident in ancient remnants and inscriptions, reflecting a deep-rooted environmental awareness. Their approach, embedded in local wisdom, seeks a balance between human needs and nature’s protection, manifesting in practices like the subak irrigation system. This ancient system, dating back to the pre-Hindu era, is not just an agricultural tool but a symbol of respect for water, integral to Balinese culture. The Balinese have developed several systems for managing water, such as the management of the Pakerisan River in the 10th century and Taman Sari temple in the 15th to 17th century, highlighting their commitment to ecological sustainability. However, these practices now face challenges in maintaining their balance amidst modern socio-cultural and economic pressures.
Dr. I Made Geria from The National Research and Innovation Agency, Indonesia, along with his team, has explored this ancient wisdom, uncovering how it has shaped Balinese life and preserved their natural resources. Their study, conducted alongside Dr. Titi Nastiti, Dr. Retno Handini, and Dr. Ni Juliawati from the same agency, Dr. Wawan Sujarwo from the Research Center for Ecology and Ethnobiology, Dr. Acwin Dwijendra from Udayana University, and Dr. Mohammad Fauzi from the Research Center for Archaeometry, represents a significant exploration of the close relationship between the Balinese people and their environment. Their work, published in the peer-reviewed journal Heliyon, meticulously explores the Balinese philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, emphasizing the balance between humans, nature, and the divine.
Dr. Geria’s team highlights the subak system, an ancient method of water distribution that exemplifies the Balinese commitment to working in harmony with nature. “One of the most prominent practices among the Balinese society that shows wisdom in developing a built environment is their traditional water management. There is an indication that the water management and glorification performed by the people of Bali have been started since the pre-Hindu era,” says Dr. Geria.
Modern challenges, such as rapid tourism development and land-use change, pose threats to the sustainability of Bali’s water management traditions. Dr. Geria emphasizes the need to protect water sources: “Water should be protected and held sacred to maintain the sustainability of the water cycle. The concept of kaja-kelod, which considers the mountain direction as sacred, means that mountains as the life source of wells must be protected.”
Dr. I Made Geria expressed his pride in the Balinese philosophy passed down from ancestors, stating, “Through spirituality, they preserve the environment with the concept of Tri Hita Karana, 3 elements that are maintained in maintaining harmonious relationships, with God the Creator, with each other living creatures and the environment. This philosophy has now become a lifestyle for the Balinese people.” This sentiment underscores the profound connection between the Balinese spiritual beliefs and their environmental practices.
Dr. I Made Geria and his team’s study is a reminder of the enduring wisdom embedded in traditional practices. As the world grapples with environmental challenges, the Balinese example of harmonious water management serves as an inspiring model of how cultural heritage and environmental stewardship can coexist, paving the way for a sustainable future.
I Made Geria, Titi Surti Nastiti, Retno Handini, Wawan Sujarwo, Acwin Dwijendra, Mohammad Ruly Fauzi, Ni Putu Eka Juliawati, “Built environment from the ancient Bali: The Balinese heritage for sustainable water management,” Heliyon, 2023. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e21248.
About the Author
Dr. I Made Geria was born on January 1st in 1962. He is Principal Researcher at Research Center for Environmental Archaeology, Maritime Archaeology and Cultural Sustainability, National Research and Innovation Agency. He got his bachelor in Archaeology and master degree in Environmental Studies from Udayana University in 1986 and 2004. In 2019, he graduated with doctoral degree in Management of Resources and Environment from IPB University. He has published numerous scientific works in national and international journals. His latest publication is titled ‘Built Environment from the Ancient Bali: The Balinese Heritage for Sustainable Water Management,’ published in the International Journal Heliyon. A list of his publications can be found on Scopus with the ID number 57196150738 and Orcid ID https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9174-8289.
One of the sites he has worked on is the Tambora Site located in West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. The eruption of Mount Tambora occurred in 1815 and had not only local but also global climatic impacts. The research findings on the Tambora site have been published in a book by UGM Press. He has also served as the Head of the National Archaeological Research Center from 2014 to 2021. Additionally, he held the position of Governing Board Member of SEAMEO SPAFA from 2019 to 2022. Actively participating in various scientific activities such as seminars and symposiums at both national and international levels. He is currently involved in professional scientific organizations, namely the Indonesian Association of Archaeologists and the Center for Prehistory and Austronesian Studies.