Bali’s biggest landfill site has been on fire for the last two weeks. Over the last 14 days, three more landfill sites have caught fire as wildfires continue to burn across the eastern side of the island.
As officials predict that fires will smolder on for at least a week more, a new landfill site has been opened to deal with the overwhelming amount of trash piling up across Bali.
Suwung TPA, Bali’s biggest open landfill site, is still on fire. The waste disposal facility is located just 7.5 km from the iconic resort of Kuta Beach.
Winds have been blowing in a consistently north and north-westerly direction since the fire broke out on the morning of the 12th of October, leading to dangerous levels of air pollution over Denpasar, Kuta, Seminyak, and even as far as Canggu.
Over the weekend the rising temperatures over the land met colder ocean air streams creating thick advection fog across the island’s busiest tourist resorts and famous viewpoints including Uluwatu and Nusa Penida.
Many local residents who live close to the landfill vacated their homes in the first days of the fire, and the community of trash pickers who live in informal housing on the border of the landfill site were temporarily rehoused by the government during the worst of the blaze.
The Regional Secretary of Bali Province, Dewa Made Indra, told reporters on Wednesday evening that the fire is 50% extinguished. He explained that firefighting crews have been trying a wide range of techniques to quash the flames.
Last week, helicopters were deployed to drop water bombs across the area as excavators dug away fire lines and fire crews battled the blaze with liters upon liters of water.
Now it is clear that conventional methods will not be sufficient to extinguish fire that is blazing away beneath the surface of the mountains of trash.
The new technique involves opening up the piles of trash where the most smoke plumes are billowing from, then spraying these pockets with target chemical water sprayers and salt. A method that has proven effective in landfill fires in other parts of Indonesia in the past.
As the Suwung TPA has been on fire for 14 days, fires also broke out at the Mandung TPA in Tabanan which is within a stone’s throw of Tanah Lot Temple, and which is still smoking and smoldering.
Temesi TPA in Ginayar and the Jungut Batu TPA on the popular tourist resort island of Nusa Lembongan have also caught fire over the last two weeks.
Temesi TPA and Jungut Batu TPA have been extinguished and are accepting trash trucks again. However, Suwung TPA typically takes 200 truckloads of waste a day. With dumping prohibited now for 14 days, at least 2800 truck loads of trash have had nowhere to go.
A new landfill site has been opened in Tabanan Regency, Kelating TPA, which is taking the majority of the waste unable to be sent to other sites and recycling facilities.
The new landfill was only recently prime rice paddies, but now the community is earning USD 2,000 a day from dumping fees, according to the Bali-based environmental NGO Sungai Watch.
Across Bali, both tourists and residents are feeling the effects of reduced air quality, foul-smelling air, and the impacts of the backlog of trash collections.
Communities in the popular resort of Legian have spoken out about how the landfill fires and controlled village trash burning have been impacting their day-to-day lives.
The Head of Legian Village Putu Eka Martini told reporters that they are doing their best to support communities who are fearful more fires will break out in the area.
Martini said, “From the trash burning activity, smoke spread to the roads in the Sunset Road area. Of course, this is very risky, especially during the dry season, which is feared to trigger land fires.”
He added, “With the smoke appearing again which is disturbing the comfort of residents, of course, we will coordinate with the Denpasar City Satpol PP. We hope to prevent this from happening again. We can’t go there [and ask] directly, because the land is part of Denpasar City.”
The Acting Governor of Bali, Sang Made Mahendra Jaya, met with leaders from Sungai Watch yesterday to discuss the strategy to combat the landfill fires and waste management moving forward.
Acting Governor Mahendra Jaya confirmed he and his teams are ‘prepared to collaborate with Sungai Watch to advocate for proper law enforcement regarding open dumping and intends to push for legislation to ensure that open dumping is prohibited’.
Due to the nature of the fires and with the rainy season not forecast to arrive until mid-November at the very earliest, the fires will smolder on for at least another week, even with every available resource invested in the disaster.
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