Archive for the ‘Sumbawa’ Category

World’s most populous island?: Bungin

March 23, 2010

It might be an idea to turn the sound off if you want to watch this clip.

The powers that be want to turn this place into some kind of tourist attraction.  I guess the island has one big advantage – there’s nothing else for miles around.  As you can gather from the map in the clip, it’s about 70 kilometres from the nearest big town, so you really have to go out of your way to get there.  Anyhow, it has three main claims to fame which the local government hopes to use to attract tourists – 1. The goats eat paper and rags; 2. It has the highest population density of any island in the world; and 3. It’s growing!

1. You can see the goats eating the morning’s paper in the clip.  I always thought all goats did that, from my comic-book-acquired knowledge of goats – paper and tin cans.  Perhaps the point here is that these goats have newspapers, rags and any other garbage they can find as their sole diet because there isn’t a blade of grass on the island, the soil is so poor. They say the local sate kambing (goat sate) is a delicacy, I think I would pass.

2. This could well be true.  The population is growing and its such a tight-knit community that nobody wants to leave. The problem with having such a high population density is that the houses are very close together, sometimes as close as 1.5 metres and the roofs are often touching. The result is that the islanders greatest fear is not storms but fire. A big enough fire could wipe out the whole lot of them.

3. Fortunately(?) the water-level is shallow so when a newly married couple want to start a family, they reclaim just enough land on the edge of the island to build their home.  In 2002, the island covered six hectares, now it’s eight.  It’s said the island originally covered only 3 hectares back in the 19th century when it was first settled.  The settlers were actually Bugis from South Sulawesi who were forced to leave their homeland by the Dutch.  Still, there are other islands that are growing, volcanic islands such as Anak Krakatoa are probably growing even faster than this one.

There are a few other matters which might make you hesitate to put this island on your itinerary. Firstly, they’ve had a problem with malaria over the past three years. Secondly, there’s a sanitation problem.  Although every house has a bathroom, none of them has a toilet. If you have to go, you have to run to the shore and look for a private spot.

Despite these problems, the islanders are affluent compared to their neighbours on Sumbawa.  Electricity and water is connected to all homes (not sewage though), most households have at least a tv set.  The kids have access to playstations.  The source of this wealth is the sea.  The Bugis are famous seafarers.  Actually, they’re mostly famous as pirates – they gave their name to the bogey man.  While the men are away at sea for three months or more, the women make good money by collecting sea cucumbers and shellfish in the shallows.  Perhaps the extra nutrients coming from the town increases the food supply for the animals in these waters?

I know I’ve taken a rather negative view of this place, but I’m always suspicious when government tries to take business matters into its own hands, particularly when there’s not much of an industry to begin with.  Despite its problems, I really do think it would be an interesting place to visit (if it were more accessable.  There are a few things that would be of real interest to me, such as the unusual stilt architecture and unique traditional culture.

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