Bali’s issues with waste management are no secret. The island has been buckling under the pressure of mounting waste for decades.
As the island becomes drier as the hot season progresses, fires have been breaking out across the island. From the slopes of sacred Mount Agung to landfill sites, Bali is burning.
At around 11 a.m. on 12th October, a fire broke out at the Suwung TPA landfill site in South Denpasar. Within minutes, huge plumes of black smoke could be seen from miles around.
As the flames moved through the landfill and waste started to smolder, massive clouds of white smoke started rising from the site and could be seen from the Mandara Toll Road and nearby coastal resorts.
Data from the air quality monitoring service IQ Air shows that air pollution in the southern regions of Bali today has hit dangerous levels and remains in the red as the evening turns into night. Footage of the fire at Suwung TPA continues to circulate online as officials and the fire service work to battle the blaze.
Initial assessments suggest that 2 hectares of the trash mountain have burned, with more of the surrounding area scorched by flames.
Though as the wind continues to pick up, more of the mountain will burn. Six units from the Denpasar Fire Department have attended the scene, supported by two units called in from Gianyar Regency and two more from Badung Regency.
Reports suggest that one loader and four excavators have been used to clear a pathway through the trash mountain for emergency vehicles to access the fire. As a precautionary measure, two ambulances are on standby at the site.
Suwung TPA is one of the biggest landfill sites in Bali and sits just off the Ngurah Rai Bypass Road. While out of view to most tourists, the landfill site is located just 6.5km from Sanur Beach to the east and 7.5 km from Kuta Beach to the west.
Tourists as far away as Canggu have reported a plastic burning smell in the air all afternoon.
The Chief Executive of the Bali Province BPBD, Made Rentin, told reporters that the relatively long dry season could be partly to blame for the fire. He added that strong winds crossing the island today have also made things more difficult for firefighters.
Rentin explained, “The fire was quite large and clouds of smoke were rising high but so far it has not disturbed public activities, especially activities at Ngurah Rai International Airport.”
Sadly, it is not only the Suwung TPA landfill site that is ablaze. The slopes of sacred Mount Agung have been experiencing localized wildfires for weeks.
While this is not uncommon in the dry season, the fires have been notably more extensive this year.
Officers from the National Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) have been battling blazes on the slopes of the volcano over the last month, with fires getting worse again this week.
According to the Head of the BPBD for Karangasem Regency, Ida Bagus Ketut Arimbawa, between 27th September and 11th October, over 730 hectares of forested landscape in the Karangasem Regency have burned in wildfires.
Some of the wildfires have been triggered by natural causes, though some are thought to have been sparked by burning rubbish piles in local villages.
Forest fires have also been burning through the slopes of Kintamani. It has been confirmed that in the nine wildfires that broke out in the final weeks of September and the early days of October in Kintamani in Bangli Regency, a total of 74.9 hectares were destroyed by fires.
The Chief Executive of the BPBD Bangli, I Wayan Wardan, warned the public “Currently, in Kintamani in particular, there is still the potential for forest fires to occur. Because the condition of the forest is increasingly dry due to the dry season.”
Water shortages and rugged terrain make it difficult for firefighting crews to access these areas. Bali will remain on high alert for wildfires until the first big rains mark the beginning of monsoon season in mid-November.
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