Unseen: the tourist attraction of Bali is now a sea of waste. Thanks to us, mankind
I'm talking about Kuta Beach. During my trip around the world, I stayed here for a while, and I have great memories of this place. It is (or it was) a surf paradise. Yes, you have to ignore its big bars, overpriced (Western) food, large hotels and resorts, and drunk tourists. You have to think about palm trees, beach umbrellas, clear blue water, and pearly white beaches. Certainly no rubbish dump, full of washed-up plastic from the sea. Yet it is the reality in Bali, where the well-known beach periodically undergoes a transformation, especially during the rainy season. Thanks to us, mankind. For me, this is a sad, sad story…
100 tons a day
Already a few years ago, an emergency has been declared by the Indonesian authorities. Not because of an upcoming storm or impending attack, but because the beaches on the Indian Ocean are dirty - and that is still an understatement.
The government wants to do everything it can to save the tourist attractions and surfing paradises from their demise, but even big resources do little to remedy the situation. Every day, no less than 700 cleaning men and women are busy. They pick up plastic and fill the 35 trucks that drive on and off to the nearest rubbish dump - good for 100 tons every day. But at the crack of dawn, they have to start all over again.
The situation worsens during the rainy season, from November to March. Then the strong wind and the flooded rivers bring even more waste to the sea, which eventually ends up at the beaches. Especially a strip of six kilometers long, along the busiest districts of Kuta, Jimbaran, and Seminyak is the worst. The region normally attracts 5 million tourists every year.
The dirt not only damages the ecosystem, but also the reputation of Bali as the dream island with its turquoise waters. The archipelago of Southeast Asia, the world's fourth most populous country with about 255 million inhabitants, is also the world's second-largest producer of litter. After China, of course, where residents throw 1.29 million tons of garbage a year into the sea. It is a truism to say there is a great threat of massive fish mortality, outbreaks of disease, etc.
Indonesia already joined Clean Seas that kicked off in early 2017. The government is now committed to reducing plastic waste from the sea by 70 percent by 2025.
UN Environment launched Clean Seas (#CleanSeas on social media) in February 2017, with the aim of engaging governments, the general public and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic pollution. Over the next five years, we will address the root-cause of marine litter by targeting the production and consumption of non-recoverable and single-use plastic. To do this effectively, we need citizens to be aware, engaged and active in addressing the problem in their daily lives and beyond.
Also, more emphasis needs to be put on recycling. A first step: banning plastic bags in all stores and advice the population not to throw waste in rivers. And now we can only hope that it goes the right way because the photos still give me that strange lump in my throat (and a small outburst of anger).
Sources: AFP, Reuters, EPA
More background information about Kuta Beach: