Subak (irrigation)

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This article is about the Balinese irrigation governing unit. For the Korean martial art, see Subak .
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Balinese rice terraces is part of Subak irrigation system.
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii, v, vi
Reference 1194
UNESCO region Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 2012 (36th Session)

Subak is the name of water management (irrigation) system for paddy fields on Bali island, Indonesia which was developed more than 1,000 years ago. For Balinese, irrigation is not simply providing water for the plant's roots, but water is used to construct a complex, pulsed artificial ecosystem.[1] Paddy fields in Bali were built around water temples and the allocation of water is made by a priest.


Subak is a traditional ecologically sustainable[2] irrigation system that binds Balinese agrarian society together within the village's Bale Banjar community center and Balinese temples. The water managements is under the authority of the priests in water temples, who practice Tri Hita Karana Philosophy, a self-described relationship between humans the earth and the gods. Tri Hita Karana is related to an ancient method followed in India by rishi's of Hindu Religion.


Since the 1960s,[3] Bali has attracted travellers and tourist worldwide as part of Indonesian tourism. Estimates indicate about 1,000 hectares of paddy fields are converted into tourist facilities and housing annually threatening the age-old system.[2]

World Heritage Site status[edit]

Pura Taman Ayun.
Balinese water-spout statue in Goa Gajah petirtaan (sacred bathing pool).

On June 2012, Subak was enlisted as a UNESCO world heritage site.[4]


In 1981, Subak Museum is opened in Tabanan Regency with limited items until now.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lansing, J.S. (1987). "Balinese "Water Temples" and the Management of Irrigation". American Anthropologist 89 (2): 326–341. doi:10.1525/aa.1987.89.2.02a00030. JSTOR 677758. 
  2. ^ a b "‘Subak’ farming world-heritage listed". May 21, 2012. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Cultural Landscape of Bali Province". UNESCO. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "A thousand years on, can ‘subak’ survive?". April 18, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • J. Stephen Lansing, Priests and Programmers: Technology of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali Princeton University Press.
  • "Balinese Water Temples Withstand Tests of Time and Technology" - National Science Foundation
  • Simulation Modeling of Balinese Irrigation (extract) by J. Stephen Lansing (1996)
  • "The Impact of the Green Revolution and Capitalized Farming on the Balinese Water Temple System" by Jonathan Sepe (2000). Literature review.
  • Direct Water Democracy in Bali. [1]

Coordinates: 8°15′33″S 115°24′10″E / 8.25917°S 115.40278°E / -8.25917; 115.40278