Risaie Subak

Culturalmente Imparando

For more than a thousand years the Island of Bali, Indonesia, has developed a highly effective method of perfectly functioning irrigation. This has allowed the formation of one of the symbols of the island, as well as one of the main attractions that affect the visiting tourist: the terraced rice fields.

These rice fields, known as Subak, represent a real "gold mine" for the population. In fact, throughout Indonesia, rice is an inevitable food in everyone's daily diet and it is also a peculiarity of frequent religious ceremonies and cultural festivals.

But let's take a step back: the name Subak, in fact, refers to the centuries-old cooperatives of local inhabitants who take care of the rice fields. It is a hereditary title and, without a shadow of a doubt, a very intense spiritual bond that allows you to maintain a mystical ideal around the care of rice fields, which represent nothing but a strong testimony of Balinese creativity and, at the same time, a fusion between life and religion.

But not everything goes in the right direction, not even for this landscape and cultural heritage recognized even by UNESCO. The rice fields, in fact, have found themselves several times close to a real collapse. The cause of this change is the purchase of land belonging to farmers by large real estate companies. This trend came into effect in the 1970s with the construction of the international airport in Denpasar. Since then, waves of tourists flocked to the island of rice paddies, in addition to the wealthy bankers and entrepreneurs from Hong Kong who started building their villas, taking advantage of the very low living costs and the fascinating natural scenery.

Large hotels decimated the vegetation and the beaches acquired tens of meters at the expense of the forest. In all this, however, the beauty of the rice fields had to be maintained, in order to make the tourist and economic flow prosper. New qualities of rice, chemical fertilizers and supplements were therefore introduced, the fallow period was abandoned in order to make the Subak rice fields an "active" show 365 days a year.

Replacing traditional irrigation methods with new technology has led to the production of chemical waste, which was disproportionate to the normal habits of the island. The fertilizer, used in irrigation, was then discharged into the sea, causing an ever faster "covering" of the coral reef. Today the irrigation system has returned to the so-called "water temples", but the prolonged use of fertilizers continues to cause pollution problems.



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  • L'Autore

    Pablo Scialino



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