Bali a spiritual place despite development: Governor

Rampant tourist development, crime, traffic, rubbish and water problems have not, and will not, kill Bali's identity as a spiritual place with a beach, the island's governor, I Made Pastika, says.

He was speaking as perhaps thousands of visitors, including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and former prime minister John Howard, converge to commemorate Friday's 10th anniversary of the Bali bombing.

Mr Pastika, the former police chief who helped track down and prosecute the Bali bombers a decade ago, acknowledged that the island's "development is very rapid and sometimes uncontrolled".

He said tourism was increasing wealth, but also widening the gap between rich and poor in Bali, which could lead to social tension.

He particularly apologised to a number of poor Balinese victims of the 2002 bombing who had been forgotten by the administration and left to fend for themselves, saying he felt personally guilty about their plight.

He acknowledged that the rate of change brought other problems too.

"So many people come to earn their living, to get their wealth, to suck the money from Bali … Our people are getting more and more prosperous, but on the other side there are lots of problems - traffic jams, garbage, water problems, [shortage of] accommodation, pollution.

"And also bad people come … They bring drugs, they teach crime here," he said, describing crime as the "shadow of society".

Bali has bounced back from the tourist depression brought about by the Bali bombing, and now hosts more Australians than it did before the attack.

Last year, about 2.75 million foreign tourists came to Bali, 10 per cent more than the previous year, and more than 5 million tourists came from within Indonesia.

But in July, Mr Pastika predicted that, by 2015, both figures would almost double, so that the island would host a mind-boggling 15 million tourists a year.

To prepare for this onslaught, the skyline is dotted with cranes building new luxury hotels, resorts and malls. Kuta beach has no spare frontage, and beach-front development has spread rapidly away from this, its epicentre, far to the north and south.

Traffic now banks up for an hour or more at peak times along the clogged narrow, one- or two-lane roads, and walking is dangerous due to unmaintained footpaths and motorcycles that mount the curb to seek a quicker route.

On the outskirts of towns and villages, rubbish piles up on every spare piece of land.

But, Mr Pastika denied that this rapid growth in tourism was in danger of killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

"We want Bali [to be] still Bali, with the unique culture, with the friendly people and beautiful landscapes and living culture," he said.

What would save it was the predominantly Hindu island's unique techniques of village management and worship.

"If you stay in Bali you know we have our traditional villages. We have a very good system in securing their area," Mr Pastika said.

Protecting this was about protecting the village structure, where 1400 unofficial "desa pakraman" - local villages and their chiefs - keep the unique culture alive and thriving.

"They have their own head of village, they have their own regulations and laws, they have their own security officers to keep their life as good as possible and to keep the culture and their land," Mr Pastika said.

"That is strong, the formal village. So not to worry very much, we are still optimists in Bali."