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Trashing Bali

A migrant scrap worker carries a basket of recyclables at an illegal dumpsite in Pejeng in Bali, Indonesia.

A migrant scrap worker carries a basket of recyclables at an illegal dumpsite in Pejeng in Bali, Indonesia.

With no proper solution for its ever-increasing garbage, the island's mangroves are taking the toll of illegal dumping

The lure of "paradise" has brought millions of tourists to Bali over the last decades. Last year alone, the figures suggest more than 2.6 million tourists visited the island.

Together with a local population of 3.9 million, the island has to cope with nearly two times the burden that it carried in 1990. That year, the population of Bali stood at 2.7 million, and tourist arrivals were around the million mark.

At the same time, lifestyle patterns have changed drastically. Balinese have largely become urbanised, and consumerism is rampant. Currently, Bali produces around 20,000 cubic meters of garbage every day, 75 per cent of which is not collected by any service but simply dumped at various illegal sites.

With the average per capita production of garbage at 2.8 kilograms a day, and a growing portion of that inorganic waste, there has been a drastic change in the landscape of this tropical island paradise.

A study carried out by the Bali Environmental Agency (BLH) at the behest of Governor Pastika last year found that nearly every regency in the province had numerous illegal dumpsites. Although by Indonesian law, the provincial government has the right to coordinate and regulate waste disposal carried out by the subprovinces and regencies, this seems to have largely been ignored.

In the private sector, though a clause in the Indonesian law on waste disposal forbids the disposal of waste in undesignated places, few question the local disposal service that simply dumps garbage in mangroves or ravines. This occurs, despite the fact that "producers" are technically still liable, even if a second party does the illegal dumping.

As to official disposal services, the final dumping site in Suwung, which has eaten up more than 44 hectares of valuable mangrove, is proving inadequate, even with huge raised dikes being constructed. Ironically, not half a kilometre away, an illegal dump site operates with impunity, even cutting down more mangrove as they run out of space.

Official budgets seem always to fall far short. Take the case of Klungkung regency. Last year, the regency needed 275 million rupiah (Bt900,000) for fuel costs, 650 million rupiah to pay department employees and an undisclosed amount for contract workers. Their official allocation was less than 600 million rupiah.

As if that injury were not enough, add to it the insult of small businesses operating pig sties and chicken farms in or next to dumps in order to profit from low cost slop from the waste becoming a nightmarish source of disease and epidemics.

In many cases small scavenger hamlets have set up shop right on the dumps. Though they sort out much of the recyclables, their practises have no environmental guidelines and their refuse is simply strewn about. Most are seasonal migrants from Java who are focused on making the most money possible in the shortest time. They live in dismal conditions, even raising families at these garbage dumps. With the private sector and the government calling for more growth each year, infrastructure still lags far behind and the prospect for the future is at the moment bleak. Several small NGOs are working on projects, but most are successful on a small scale at best.

In order for waste recycling and reduction to work at a feasible economic scale, it has to be adapted on a regional scale.

Bali seems to be floundering on this issue.




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