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‘Russian annexation of Bali’: Instagram post renaming Canggu as ‘New Moscow’ sets social media abuzz

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Another commentator said, “They are coming to Sanur as well with that new luxury apartment next to an upcoming shopping centre.”

A third added, “Wait until the entire island [is] named as Balinsk.”

Obviously sensing a bit of online controversy (as have we), local news site Liputan6.com approached the Bali provincial tourism office for comment.

Refusing to play ball, office head Tjok Bagus Pemayun said, “If in Bali there is New Moscow as a term, it doesn’t matter as long as the residents in that place still obey all the rules and regulations that apply in Indonesia, and don’t cause problems with the local communities around them.”

He also pointed out that Singapore had Little India and Chinatown, implying that having places that were a mini-me was cool.

Singapore isn’t the only city with a Chinatown, of course, and Little Italy is another name that can be found across the world, identifying areas in which significant numbers of immigrants from a specific country settled.

Newspapers in Britain, meanwhile, are desperately trying to get the tag “Little Hong Kong” to stick to somewhere, The Daily Mail having attached it to Sutton, in South London; The Times to Salford, in Greater Manchester.

The established names, though, tend to reference countries – China, Italy, India – rather than cities, so why is Canggu called Little Moscow, not Little Russia?

We can only imagine that that’s because historically, the term Little Russia has been used to describe Ukraine, a part of the world the Russians flocking to Bali presumably do not want to be reminded of.

What Singapore’s sustainability accolade actually means

What does Singapore have in common with Thredbo, Australia; Nuuk, Greenland; Turkey’s Ejder 3200 ski resort; Melgaço, Portugal; and Breckenridge, Colorado, in the United States?

Give yourself a vigorous pat on the back if you replied, correctly, that they are all certified by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), self-described as “the world’s only sustainable tourism accreditation body”.

Singapore received the accolade in 2023, making it “the first to achieve certification at the country level”, crowed the Singapore Tourism Board at the time – although being just 735 sq km (284 square miles) in size must have given the city state a distinct advantage in the race of nations towards this particular prize.

Introducing set standards across a country as vast as China or the US would be a whole different ballgame, and we note that no other country has yet joined Singapore on the GSTC roster.

Nevertheless, belated congratulations, Singapore! You have set an example for other discrete city-territories to follow – not that we can think of any right now …

People cycle along a path next to the Flower Dome in Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. Photo: AFP

So what does a GSTC blessing mean, exactly?

Well, firstly, the GSTC points out that it “does not directly certify any products or services; but it provides assurance for those that do”.

In the case of Singapore, the issuer of certification was actually Vireo Srl, an Italian company “whose goal is to offer the best certifications for sustainability available on the international market”.

As well as with the GSTC, Vireo has tie-ups with the likes of the Forest Stewardship Council, the Marine Stewardship Council, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Eco-print (low-impact printing) and others – a veritable one-stop shop for all your certification needs.

Certification brokers probably make sense and are perhaps the most efficient way of handing out documentation, but with greenwashing an ever-present concern, we can see how a lengthy chain of assessing bodies could leave a wary member of the public with suspicions.

Whatever … GSTC certification is what Singapore boasts of, and, according to its website, the council establishes and manages global sustainability standards – what it calls GSTC Criteria – and it’s those that hotels, tour operators or destinations/governments shoot for.

These criteria cover: sustainable management; socio-economic impacts; cultural impacts; and environmental impacts (including consumption of resources, pollution reduction and the conserving of biodiversity and landscapes).

“Since tourism destinations each have their own culture, environment, customs and laws, the criteria are designed to be adapted to local conditions,” says the GSTC.

In the Lion City’s case, certification “reflects Singapore’s efforts and commitment in becoming a sustainable urban destination”, says the GSTC.

And these efforts are wrapped up in the Singapore Green Plan 2030 (tree planting, solar deployment, waste reduction – that sort of thing) and the Singapore Tourism Board’s Tourism Sustainability Strategy, which was launched in 2022 and “sets out actionable strategies for the tourism industry so that Singapore can become a sustainable urban destination”.

There’s lots of talk of becoming a “sustainable urban destination” there – which, we’d argue, is an impossibility with current technology – but any action is better than no action at all.

If only there were some way of getting to Singapore quickly without burning thousands of gallons of aviation fuel.

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