For more than a month, wildfires have been spreading across the eastern regencies of Bali.
Two weeks ago, a series of landfill fires broke out across the island that emergency crews are still working around the clock to bring under control.
During a meeting with the Bali-based environmental NGO Sungai Watch, the Acting Governor of Bali, Sang Made Mahendra Jaya, shared a public statement revealing his commitment to ensuring the health and safety of residents and tourists on the island.
In a video shared on the Sungai Watch social media channels, Acting Governor Mahendra Jaya said, “We have learnt a lot from our landfill burning down.”
“How much budget have we already used to try and put out the fire? If we look at the budget spent on helicopter, fire squads, [it’s a lot] but the impact on the people living nearby [the damage] is priceless and we can’t let it happen again.”
He continued, “Sorting [waste] at the source is still not effective. We need to be a lot wiser in how we handle our waste. We will work with existing regulations and optimize them to better sort waste.”
“We will also use law enforcement to push for proper regulations. For example, if a truck brings mixed trash to a sorting facility, we will send it back with the right law enforcement, and if needed we will follow suit and bring him to justice.”
The Acting Governor further explained, “The also needs to be put forward for anyone that openly dumps [waste]. This is for our well-being, so Bali can become more beautiful.”
Acting Governor Mahendra Jaya has committed to working with Sungai Watch to help ensure the law is enforced when it comes to illegal open landfills and waste dumping. It is not only the large landfills that are burning but countless smaller, illegally trash dumps and waste piles too.
While Sungai Watch is one of the most high-profile NGOs working in the waste-managed space in Bali, there are dozens of organizations working tirelessly to try and create sustainable ways to deal with the island’s huge issues with waste management.
He has also committed to investing 50-70% of the first year of funds generated from the soon-to-be-introduced tourism tax on establishing better waste management infrastructure.
These issues are affecting local residents, tourism businesses, and tourists themselves. In most vacation resort destinations around the world, most tourists are shielded from the behind-the-scenes and unglamorous work of waste management and other utility services.
Yet in Bali, the issue is all too apparent to tourists, especially since trash is often washed up on the beach from the island’s rivers and bought in on the tide.
Most recently, tourists have felt the effects of the drastically reduced air quality that has been recorded across the island since the first landfill fire broke out at Suwung TPA on the 12th of October.
Both locals and tourists have reported feeling the impacts of poor air quality over the last two weeks. Since the winds have been blowing in a westerly direction, smoke from the Suwung TPA fires have blown over resorts like Kuta, Legain, Seminyak, and Canggu.
Symptoms have included sinus pain, itchy eyes, coughs, colds, dizziness, and fatigue. Communities who live closest to the Suwung TPA have naturally been worst affected.
The community trash pickers who live in informal houses on the border of the landfill have been temporarily relocated by the government for their safety.
Efforts remain underway to combat the fires at Suwung TPA and at Mandung TPA in Tabanan Regency.
Acting Governor Jaya has released more funding and resources to the emergency services and is calling on the national government to send more supplies and technology to extinguish the blaze.
As all efforts continue to be focused on extinguishing these landfill fires and the wildfires out in the east, Bali is anticipating to be fighting fires until the rainy season begins.
Current forecasts predict that the first big monsoon rains will arrive by the end of next month.
With more and more districts of the island reaching 100 days with no rain, many feel the ‘musim hujan’ cannot arrive fast enough.
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