by Rio Helmi

The lure of ‘paradise’ has brought millions of tourists to Bali over the last decades. Last year alone the figures suggest that more than 2.6 million tourists visited the island. Together with a local population of some 3.9 million inhabitants, the island has to cope with nearly two times the burden that it carried in 1990. That year the population of Bali stood at 2.7 million, and tourist arrivals were around the 1 million mark.

At the same time lifestyle patterns have changed drastically. Balinese have largely become urbanised, and consumerism is rampant. Currently Bali produces around 20,000 cubic meteres of rubbish everyday, 75% of which is not collected by any service – it is simply dumped at various illegal sites.

With the average per capita production of garbage at 2.8 kg a day, and a growing portion of that being inorganic, there has been a drastic change in the landscape of this tropical island paradise.

A study carried out by the government  Bali Environmental Agency (BLH) on the behest of Governor Pastika last year found that nearly every regency in the province had numerous illegal dumpsites. Although by Indonesian law the provincial government has the right to coordinate and regulate waste disposal carried out by the sub-provincial, kabupaten ‘regency’  governments, this seems to have largely been ignored. In the private sector, though Clause 29  of the Indonesian environmental laws on waste disposal forbids disposal of waste in undesignated places few question the local disposal service that simply dumps garbage in mangroves or ravines. This despite the fact that ‘producers’ are technically still liable even if  a second party carries out the illegal dumping.

As to the official disposal services, the  final dumping site in Suwung which has eaten up more than 44 hectares of valuable mangrove is proving inadequate, even with huge raised dikes being constructed. Ironically, not half a kilometer away an illegal dump site operates with impunity, even cutting down more mangrove as they run out of space.

Official budgets seem always to fall far short. Take the case of the Klungkung regency.  Last year they needed IDR 275 million for fuel costs, IDR 650 million for the depertament employees, plus an undisclosed budget for contract workers. Their official allocation was less than IDR 600 million.

As if injury were not enough, add to it the insult of small businesses operating pig stys and chicken farms in or next to dumps in order to profit from low cost slop from the waste – a nightmare source of disease and epidemics. In many cases small scavenger hamlets have set up shop right on the dumps. Though they sort out much of the recyclables their practices have no environmental guidelines, their residue is simply strewn about. Most are seasonal migrants from Java who are focused on making the most money possible in the shortest time. They live in dismal conditions, even raising families there.

With the private sector and the government calling for more growth each year, the infrastructure lagging far behind, the prospect for the future is for the moment bleak. Several small NGOS are working on projects, but most of them are successful on a small scale at best. In order for waste recycling and reduction to work on a feasible economic scale it has to be adapted on a regional scale. Bali seems to be floundering on this issue.