The island of Bali is held in high regard by many for its verdant nature and tranquil crystal-clear coastlines.
While this may be an accurate image of the island most of the time, the sad reality is that the impacts of climate change and rising pollution levels are becoming increasingly obvious in Bali.
Late last week, air quality levels in the iconic arts and cultural capital of Ubud dropped to dangerous levels. Ubud, a town synonymous with being surrounded by tropical forest and agricultural land, experienced an air quality score of 155.
According to the air quality index used by IQAir, good air quality sits within 0-50 on the US AQI.
A moderate air quality ranking sits within 51-100 US AQI; upwards of 101 air quality enters the unhealthy and potentially hazardous zone.
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Ubud’s ranking late last week of 155 firmly put the resort town in the unhealthy zone. When a place enters a moderate or unhealthy zone, there are a series of recommended health protocols to help people keep safe.
These include wearing a mask outdoors, closing windows in order to prevent polluted air free flowing into the room, avoiding outdoor exercise, and, where possible, using an air purifier.
As of Monday evening, Ubud’s air quality had reduced to be in the moderate zone. IQAir recommends that those with breathing sensitivities should follow the health protocols listed above.
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Leaders in Ubud have addressed the issue of the changing air quality in the area with the media. Speaking to reporters, the Regent of Gianyar, I Made Maharashtra, shared his surprise at the sharp decline in air quality.
Despite concerns that this may become a new normal, Regent Mahayastra feels that it will remain a rare situation.
Regent Mahayastra said, “There are still a lot of trees. There is no industry [in Ubud]; what remains is tourism. Of course, we will find out what caused it. Where we will discuss it with those who understand. Since there is no industry, the source must be from cars.”
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Environmental professionals have suggested that a much higher than usual volume of traffic in Ubud, caused by vehicles used for tourism purposes, may have been the most influential factor.
Gianyar Police Chief, AKBP Ketut Widiada, told the media that the poor air quality in Ubud should be a cause for alarm and that this is a clear sign that more must be done to tackle traffic congestion in the tourism hotspot.
To improve the experience of the town for tourists, access to facilities for local people, and to improve air quality for the sake of everyone’s health.
AKBP Widiada said, “Currently, visits to Ubud are quite dense, both foreign and domestic. They have started to increase.”
“Even now, Ubud is included in 4 world tourist destinations. We will try together with other stakeholders from the Transportation Agency will try to expedite the Ubud area so that it is safe from traffic jams.”
Authorities in Ubud have long been discussing ways in which the traffic congestion can be eased in the center of the town. Earlier this year, police and transportation agencies launched a crackdown on illegal parking in the area.
This made a huge difference for a short while. Without illegally parked cars and motorcycles along the narrow streets of Ubud town center, cars could drive in a more orderly and safe manner.
However, illegal parking has started to creep in again, and the town’s narrow streets were simply not designed to cope with the sheer volume of traffic the area receives, especially during high season.
AKBP Widida said, “From the past until now, the road area in Ubud is still like that while the volume of vehicles is increasing. There needs to be widening, and we need to try to have a one-way lane.”
Should tourists be worried about the air quality in Ubud and other popular destinations in Bali?
The simple answer is that tourists should be aware of the air quality and act according to the fluctuations, especially for those with breathing sensitivities.
Tourists can stay up to date with the most recent air quality updates at IQAir and follow the health protocols as they see fit.
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