APSN Banner

Postcard: 'Tourists stop eating here if they see so much garbage'

Sydney Morning Herald - April 21, 2019

Amilia Rosa, Bali – Bali's beaches are one of the main reasons tourism took off for the Indonesian island in the 1970s and 80s, drawing surfers and holidays makers from around the world.

But stretches of those beaches, from Nusa Dua, Kuta to Canggu, are now often covered in rubbish – drawing the sort of headlines that no tourism mecca would want – and leaving beachgoers to sunbathe and swim next to rubbish.

The rubbish washes up from the island itself and from other places like the neighbouring Indonesian island of Java. The plastic rubbish not only pollutes the environment, it's a ghastly sight for tourists.

And while the effect of the rubbish for tourists might be simply that they stay in their resorts, there is also a big cost for local fishermen.

Everyday in the afternoon Taufik, who is a fisherman from Kedonganan fishing village in Bali's Jimbaran beach side area, paddles his boat to a spot a few hundred meters from the beach to cast his fishing net. He leaves it at night and returns the next morning to collect it.

During what is known locally as the west wind season (December to March, when the waste problem is at its worst) some days he nets more plastic waste than shrimp or lobster.

"I am lucky I caught something today." Taufik says. That something is only a small two ounces of lobster worth the equivalent of $5.

The rest of his fishing net was riddled with pieces of plastic bags, water bottles, plastic cups and plastic wrappers.

Like many fishermen in the area, Taufik does not own the boat he uses. A poor haul of fish from his nets means extra financial pressure.

"I don't own the boat, I am just a worker. If I don't catch enough, I have to borrow money from my boss for food."

Putu Eka Merthawan from Bali's Badung environment and sanitation department, who is in charge of cleaning these polluted beaches, admits the agency struggles to hold back the tide of rubbish that swamps the beaches.

"In a regular day like we predict April will be, we have 12 people on the job. During December to February, we assigned 1000 people, not including the locals who helped."

"This year, at its worst, we had to clean 500 tonnes of trash in a day. Big branches of trees and all kinds of plastic waste washed up."

One of the first things Bali's new governor I Wayan Koster did after taking office late last year was to ban single use plastics.

That means that plastic bags from supermarkets and shopping malls (though not traditional markets) will be banned, as well as styrofoam and plastic straws.

The goal is to reduce plastic waste by 70 per cent in 2019 – an ambitious target, but one that would clearly make a difference to Bali's natural environment, as well helping both fishermen and the tourism market.

More controversially, Koster has also suggested collecting a tax of US$10 for each foreign tourist who visits Bali, with that money to be used to help preserve Bali's natural environment.

The governor's policy proposal is still being reviewed, and the implementation of it could be tricky.

Plastic waste is not just a problem for Bali. Indonesia is the second biggest plastic polluter in the world after China according to a 2017 research article published in the journal Nature Communications.

The journal estimates that between 1.15 million and 2.41 million tonnes of plastic enters the world's ocean every year from rivers.

Of this, Indonesia is estimated to be responsible for around 200,000 tonnes of plastic from its rivers and streams, mainly from the islands of Java and Sumatra.

"We fishermen are caught between the rocks, really. At deeper sea levels, there is less rubbish but the reefs will damaged my net. In shallow waters the rubbish will damage my net" said Oli.

Either way, at this time of year the waste problem, "will cost me more in damages than anything I would catch".

The flow-on effect of all this waste on Bali's beaches is affecting local businesses, too.

Ketut Arya, who runs one of the small restaurants next to Kedonganan fish market, cooks seafood bought by tourists at the market.

"We have people cleaning up the beaches. But during the last few months, there was so much rubbish it just piled up before it could be collected." Arya says.

"Of course it affects us too. Tourists stop eating here if they see so much garbage. Who would want to eat after that [looking at all the rubbish]?"

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/postcard-tourists-stop-eating-here-if-they-see-so-much-garbage-20190420-p51fry.html