Tainted Alcohol Threatens Bali, Lombok Tourism
While authorities have made a big show of their crackdown on moonshine, people continue to imbibe at their leisure. (JG Photo/Fajirin Raharjo)
As an alluring destination in Southeast Asia, Indonesia attracts a large number of foreign tourists visiting the country each year. Besides their natural beauty, tropical islands such as Bali and Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara province, are also known for their vibrant night life. Tourists are pampered with lively bars and overflowing cheap drinks.
Known locally as “arak”, cheap locally-brewed beer is manufactured in Bali from palm sap or rice, with Karangasem district as one of the main producers of local arak. As of March 2013, Bali’s Trade and Industry Agency reported that there were 1,037 licensed home industries which produce arak in Karangasem alone. Production of local Arak cannot be completely removed from Bali as thousands of local residents depend on arak production for their living.
However, low quality arak produced by inexperienced parties can create problems as they can be poisonous. In spite of implementation of various regulations, poisonous arak can still be found in Bali. This lethal drink is usually supplied by inexperienced individuals who failed to properly remove methanol, the by-product of arak production. Methanol is a lethal substance that can cause extreme illnesses such as kidney failures, blindness or death.
Liam Davies gained public attention after drinking deadly liquor in Bali during New Year’s eve. Doctors reported that the 19-year-old Australian suffered from methanol poisoning.
Another case involved a British backpacker named Cheznye Emmons. Emmons consumed a seemingly harmless beverage which came in a properly-labeled gin bottle. It was suspected that the content of the bottle was already replaced with methanol, the cause of her death. A number of other tourists were also reported to have died or suffered blindness after drinking poisonous arak.
The UK and Australian governments have demanded Bali provincial government to look into the matter and take appropriate action. They demanded stricter law enforcement on locally-produced drinks.
The Australian Consul General in Bali has also met the Bali Governor regarding the matter. “Many incidents have been reported where tourists fell seriously ill but did not die”, said Ida Bagus Kade Subhiksu, head of Bali Tourism Agency.
Bali is getting serious about this worsening problem. The provincial government is imposing more control. Since then, it has put a lot of efforts in regulating negative investment including alcoholic beverages.
For example, the 2012 regional regulation No. 71 has been imposed in addition to forming a special monitoring team coordinated by the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) in order to prevent the distribution of harmful alcoholic beverages.
Routine sweeps are also performed to prevent any further victims. Local alcohol vendors, hotels and bars are banned from distributing beverages without labels and official licenses from Drug and Food Monitoring Agency (BPOM) as well as local health agency.
The West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) Tourism Promotion Board has also urged the NTB provincial and regional administrations to control the distribution of alcoholic drink in pubs and resorts by tightening regulations. By doing so, the NTB Tourism Promotion Board aims to protect foreigners from alcohol poisoning.
This article originally appeared in Global Indonesian Voices, an independent online media written by Indonesians abroad.