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Devastating Coal Spill Off Bali Coast Finally Under Control

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A coal transport barge that ran aground on the waters off the Northern Bali coast has finally been evacuated. The barge loaded with over 9 tonnes of coal got stranded on Sunday, 28th August. Coal has been spilling off the barge since last weekend. It is not yet known the extent of the damage the population will have caused t the fragile marine ecosystem.

Despite the barge getting stranded it took until Wednesday afternoon for an evacuation effort to be completed. By which time, tonnes of coal had been spilled. The barge was stranded near the shore of Celukan Bawang village in Buleleng Regency.

The vessel has now been bought into the Port of PLTU Celukan Bawang so that the remaining cargo load can be removed. The Head of Public Relations of the Buleleng Police, AKP Gede Sumarjaya, told reports on Thursday afternoon ‘The coal cargo on the TBS 3301 barge has been transferred to the BG ET 3312 barge. The transfer has been carried out since Sunday and was completed Wednesday at around 3.30 pm. 

Sumarjaya gave an update about the barge’s condition and the rescue mission. ‘So far, activities have been running safely and smoothly. The next ship is taken to the Jetty Port of PLTU Celukan Bawang for loading and unloading. The barge carried 9,722 tonnes of coal and belonged to PT Kaltim Prima Coal. The natural resource was being imported from East Kalimantan and was due to be used by General Energy Bali for the Celukan Bawang Steam Power Plant. 

Despite calls for accountability from the local community, Sumarjaya did not give any detail about the spill’s impact on the environment, nor any actions that will be taken to deal with the pollution caused. Initial reports suggested that the evacuation and clean-up operation would take 15-days. While the 5-day turnaround is better than expected for bringing the barge back to land, it does not address the issue of pollution, environmental damage, and tangible losses for the fishing community. 

The incident has sparked outrage in local fishing communities, who are scared that the coal spill will devastate their livelihoods. On Monday, 29th August, ten fishermen from Celukan Bawang village held a protest outside the offices of Bali’s Governor, Wayan Koster. They were accompanied by a legal advisor and demanded that urgent action be taken to limit the damage of the coal spill. They also demanded that the company responsible for the vessel, PT Kaltim Prima Coal, be held to account for the damages caused to their livelihoods and the environment. 

The community’s legal representative, Michael Angelo, the Head of Advocacy at the Legal Aid Institute, told reporters of the impacts of the coal spill on the village. The coal spill happened just in front of Segara Tinga Tinga Temple in Buleleng.

Accountability may still be achievable. Speaking outside the Governor’s offices on Monday, Angelo said he and the community are ‘Demanding the Governor of Bali to conduct a moratorium on the use of coal as a fuel for the Celukan Bawang power plant and to create a good and healthy living environment for the residents of Celukan Bawang’. 

It is hoped the issue will be taken seriously by authorities, especially as the government is looking to promote northern Bali, specifically Buleleng Regency, as a tourist destination. While Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak receive the majority of international beach-bound travelers, officials are keen to promote the coastal beauty of northern Bali.

Travelers have access to quieter beaches and the opportunity to take boat tours to find the resident pods of dolphins. If not addressed quickly, this coal spill could have devastating impacts on the coastal community, the environment, and the tourism sector.

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Wayan Bo

Monday 5th of September 2022

Coal is needed urgently in Europe too.