As Bali enters day six of landfill fires across the island, leaders in Tabanan Regency have declared a state of emergency.
Landfill fires have swept through Suwung TPA in South Denpasar and Mandung TPA in Tabanan Regency as well as Temesi TPA in Gianyar.
While these landfill sites are situated away from the eyes of tourists, the impact of the burning is impacting air quality levels across the island.
The Tabanan Regency Secretary, I Gede Susilsa, confirmed to reporters that an emergency status has been declared in the area and that a Fire Handling Emergency Team has been dedicated to combating the blaze in partnership with the National Disaster Management Agency, local firefighting teams, the army, and the community.
The Mandung TPA is 16km from the world-famous Tanah Lot Temple and a 30-minute drive from the popular surfing breaks at Kedungu Beach.
The fire continues to smolder and fire crews are working around the clock to combat the blaze. As the plastic waste burns toxic fumes are released into the atmosphere, worsening air quality around the island.
Beneath the mountain of trash lies trapped methane gas created by pockets of rotting organic waste which is also being burnt off into the air.
As the fires consuming the Suwung TPA in South Denpasar roll into their sixth day, wind speeds are picking up, yet more toxic smoke is entering the atmosphere.
Initially, families who lived at the landfill site had been moved to safer accommodations in neighboring Seranagan, but now 63 more people have been evacuated from their homes near the landfill site.
The Deputy Major of Denpasar, I Kadek Arya Wibawa, said that his offices which sit 500m from the landfill have been affected by the smoke plumes.
He confirmed that the Provincial Health Service is distributing masks and offering health screenings to those showing signs of respiratory distress due to the toxic smoke.
Yet, as the fires at Suwung TPA will surely blaze into a second week communities major public health concerns are being raised.
Not only are the fires impacting air quality around the island but with waste not being delivered to the landfill sites as per usual, trash will undoubtedly pile up in other parts of the island.
Environmental NGO Sungai Watch has already shared on social media images of Bali’s rivers experiencing higher than usual amounts of waste arriving at their trash barriers.
In theory, trash trucks that usually head for Suwung TPA should be dropping waste at neighboring Integrated Processing Sites (TPST) and Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Waste Processing Sites (TPS3R). However, this is putting huge amounts of pressure on these facilities.
Earlier in the year when access to the landfill and the recycling facilities in Denpasar were blocked, waste quickly piled up on the streets. Every day upwards of 50 truckloads of waste gets dumped at Suwung TPA, weighing upwards of 250 tonnes.
Local reports suggest more than 750 tonnes of waste is ‘stuck’ in limbo as recycling facilities operate at near maximum capacity.
Huge efforts are still underway to completely stop the fire at Suwung TPA. Fire trucks have been hosing the blaze almost 24/7, and heliports have been dropping water bombs across the worst affected areas. Now a water injection system is being implemented.
Similar to an irrigation system, pipes are being laid and water mixed with chemicals will be pumped through to help cool the site. The method has previously been used successfully to battle similar fires that broke out in landfills in Sulawesi.
Officials appear hopeful that the fires will be brought under control soon.
The fires are contained within the landfill sites and there is minimal risk of the fires spreading outside of the sites now that fire lines have been cut.
Though wildfires continue to burn through parts of Karangasem and Bangli Regency, the biggest threat to the community, locals, and tourists alike is the impact on air quality.
The wind continues to blow in a north, north-westerly direction meaning resorts that sit downwind of Suwung TPA are worst affected, this includes Kuta, Seminyak, Legian, and Canggu.
While blue skies may appear, the air quality level has been sitting in the red zone pretty consistently since the fire started on Thursday.
Advice from IQ Air states that when air quality levels reach unhealthy levels it is best to avoid outdoor exercise, close windows and doors, use an air purifier, and wear a mask outdoors.
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