Gurstein, Michael on Mon, 30 May 2005 14:35:02 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> The political sociology of golf in south asia --posting

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Mario Rodrigues
Sent: May 29, 2005 12:18 PM
To:; vivek@sarai.neet
Subject: [Reader-list] the political sociology of golf in south asia

The political sociology of golf in South Asia--Posting

Over the last decade, golf has acquired the status of a four-letter word
because of the havoc it has wrought across the globe. These ravages have
been most manifest in Asia, and especially in South-East Asia, which has
experienced some of the most concentrated golf development as a result
of state policy.

The so-called "green game" has made millions of people across the world
see red because of the excesses and illegalities associated with golf
course development. These include: issues relating to illegal and
sometimes forcible acquisition of land required to build deluxe resorts
and golf courses, the displacement of traditional and/or marginalised
communities from their ancestral land, deforestation,
destruction/alteration of environment and ecological life systems, use
of (harmful) pesticides to keep courses green and pest-free,
contamination of soil and neighbouring water systems due to heavy use of
pesticides, and the consumption of large amounts of water at the cost of
the public.

These excesses have been mimicked in almost every country across the
globe, including India: this will be highlighted in a future posting.
Such excesses have provoked strident protests from environmentalists,
activists, NGOs and those affected by golf developments, sometimes
erupting in violent incidents. The violence has often been perpetrated
by golf developers in collusion with the governments/authorities backing
such developments.

To combat the scourge of golf, the Global Anti-Golf Movement was founded
in 1993 by Japanese market gardener Gen Morita after he discovered that
his crops were contaminated by chemicals from the water draining off a
nearby golf course. The GAGM has been observing a "World No Golf Day"
since the 1990s and its activists have waged sustained campaigns against
controversial golf projects, especially in South-East and East Asia,
sometimes successfully. Of late, GAGM has not been as active as before
due to the economic recession and the setbacks to the "tiger economies"
a few years ago, which badly impacted on the golf business. But it seems
that golf back is back on the agenda of national governments now and
golf courses have become an intrinsic part of the landscape in
South-East Asia.

Some of the anti-golf struggles that erupted in the region, especially
in the 1990s, and excesses connected with golf, include:

* THAILAND: The Golden Valley Golf & Country Club designed by Jack
Nicklaus allegedly encroached on the famous Khao Yai National Park, with
developers dynamiting a hill in the park to join two roads. A number of
golf courses in the country have allegedly trespassed on protected
forest areas and national parks.

* MYANMAR: GAGM activists launched a campaign to try and force Nicklaus
to de-link himself from designing a golf course for the Andaman Club on
Thahtay Kyan island, a $ 24 million five-star resort and casino project,
in view of the economic sanctions that were in force against the Burmese
military junta.

In another instance, the army used strong-arm tactics to evict
traditional residents so that the land could be freed for the
development of the Myanmar Golf Club in Rangoon.

* MALAYSIA: The Berawan, a small indigenous ethnic group, were locked in
grim battle with a Japanese hotel chain and the Sarawak provincial
government over plans to build a 200-acre course on their ancestral land
in the Mulu National Park.

Hundreds of acres of tropical forests were reportedly cleared to pave
the way for luxury resorts and golf courses in Langkawi island leading
to all-round havoc and deprivation.

* INDONESIA: Farmers, students and religious groups launched a bitter
though unsuccessful agitation against the forcible acquisition of land
by the government to built the 120-acre Le Meridien Nirwana Golf and Spa
Resort (with links to the disgraced former dictator General Suharto)
near a Hindu shrine overlooking Tanah Lot in Bali.

In the Gili Trawangan islands off the picturesque Lombok region,
government forces used violence to evict inhabitants and visitors; while
in West Java, a developer bulldozed crops to force farmers off their

* VIETNAM: Security forces cracked down harshly on protestors from the
Kim No village outside Hanoi who were protesting the Communist
government&#8217;s decision to confiscate their farmlands and hand it
over to foreign developers to build a golf course.

* CHINA: There is a moratorium on golf course development after it was
found that almost all courses have been built after illegal acquisition
of land. Premier Wen Jiabao warned in Parliament that the government
would resolutely put an end to illegal acquisition and use of farmland.
According to statistics published in the &#8216;People&#8217;s
Daily&#8217;, golf courses are devouring land illegally &#8211; and of
the 176 course in 26 provinces, only one has been approved by the
central government. The inference is that the rest are all illegally
built. According to the law, golf courses can only be built on unused
hills, waste land and sloping fields, a rule seemingly observed more in
breach by local governments.

* THE PHILIPPINES: Citizens groups have valiantly fought the efforts of
the Fil-Estate Realty Corp to build the Harbortown golf course and
marina over 8,650 hectares of farmlands in Hacienda Looc, about 80 kms
off Manila at the suggestion of USAID. Ironically, ownership of about
5,000 hectares of land was handed over to the locals as part of the
government&#8217;s agrarian reforms programme earlier. But the
government then sold all 8,650 hectares on the cheap to Fil-Estate
without even bothering to notify the peasants beforehand. To know more,
check out the documentary film "The Golf War" (1999) by Jen Schradie and
Matt De Vries, a story of land, golf and revolution in the Philippines.

Also check out the hard-hitting documentary "The Green Menace: The
Untold Story of Golf" (1993) by Thai independent film maker Ing
Kanchanawanit, which highlights the devastating effects of golf course
development on the environment. It includes graphic footage of pesticide
poisoning, forest encroachment, and water theft associated with golf
course construction in Thailand; and features interviews with golfers,
caddies, engineers, doctors, developers, and golf superstars (including
Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman).=20

* Golf courses are also known to use phenomenal amounts of pesticides,
herbicides, fungicides, artificial colouring agents and so on, to keep
the &#8216;greens&#8217; and fairways green and pest-free. A New York
Attorney General study of pesticides used on 52 Long Island golf courses
found that the average golf course applies about seven times more
pesticides per acre per year as compared to that applied in agriculture.

* Water usage of golf courses is also a very sticky issue.  According to
a study done in 2000, an average San Antonio golf course in Texas, USA,
used 312,000 gallons of water per day. According to other sources, while
on an average a golf course anywhere in the world uses about 10,800,000
litres of water per year, according to the Golf Course Superintendents
Association, US golf courses use, on an average, 414,500,000 litres a
year. In essence this means that each golf course uses enough water to
provide at least 1200 people with their basic water needs for a year.=20
Gen Morita of the GAGM says that an 18-hole golf course consumes 5,000
cubic metres of water a day, enough for 2,000 families.

On its part the golf industry has since tried to clean up its act and
introduced several environmentally-friendly measures to reduce pesticide
consumption &#8211; a few pesticide-free courses too have made their
appearance &#8211; and water consumption. The golf industry has also
gone on a propaganda offensive to highlight the &#8216;green&#8217;
elements of golf. Whether all this goes far enough to qualify golf as a
"green" game or something close to it is the moot point.

reader-list: an open discussion list on media and the city. Critiques &
Collaborations To subscribe: send an email to with subscribe in the subject header. List
archive: <>

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: