Residents and business owners in Denpasar have been raising concerns about the amount of air pollution and congestion caused by renovations to bridges along Jalan Gatsu Timur. Construction work has been ongoing on three bridges along the highway for over a year. The increase in construction dust, air pollution, and lengthy traffic jams has pushed residents to breaking point.
Jalan Gatsu Timur Bridge sits in North Denpasar, between Lumintang Park and Kertalangu Cultural Village. According to residents improvements to the bridge should be close to completion yet it seems the construction is far from finished.
Residents have complained about the increased air pollution since the beginning of the project. The construction dust adds to the already low air quality in Denpasar. They noted that the dust rises from the construction sites and is then kicked up again by vehicles crossing the bridge. Large construction machinery has regularly been left parked on the street, adding to already chaotic traffic jams.
Business owners have noticed that the increased traffic jams, dust plumes, and poor air quality are impacting their customers who have started to avoid the area. A restaurant owner called Tiwi told DetikBali that his regular customers have explicitly told him that the dust was the number one reason why they had chosen to dine elsewhere.
They reportedly expressed concerns about food hygiene suggesting that the dust and construction pollutants may contaminate the food.
On top of that, Tiwi told reports that due to the traffic jams that pile up around the bridge and outside his restaurant that potential customers had nowhere to park and the chaotic atmosphere meant that people did not want to stay long. In recent weeks traffic jams have increased in length, running from 500m to 1 km long. The rush hour traffic has gone from bad to worse.
Residents across Bali have been commenting on the issue on social media. A story on Punapi Bali, a local public information Instagram account, went viral with people sharing their experiences of the Jalan Gastu Timur Bridge saga. Commentators shared their thoughts on potential solutions and advised other road users on which times to avoid the area.
The construction project has been undertaken by the Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing. There have been suggestions online that the department should focus just as much effort on serving the Balinese community as there is an effort to impress world leaders visiting the island for the G20 Summit in November. This week the Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing announced a multi-million dollar project to build a VVIP terminal at Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport.
According to DetikBali, the budget for the project is IDR 109 billion (USD 759 million) and includes 600-days of construction and 730-days of ongoing maintenance. The project has been underway for over a year and residents are hopeful that things will get better in time. As residents, there is very little that can be done to make changes to a government-funded project such as this.
In the past stakeholders have been able to chair meetings with authorities through the local Banjar committees. If enough disgruntled residents and business owners can come together they may be able to work with a construction company to make some progress.
Looking at air quality statistics for Bali on the 2nd June 2022, Ubud is experiencing the lowest air quality sitting at 84 on the air quality index, while Denpasar is experiencing 70 AQI. Both of these ratings are classified as medium and not an immediate cause for concern for citizens or travelers in these areas. The Jimbaran area, which includes South Kuta beach has the best air quality in Bali today.
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