Bali’s coast plagued with trash, pollution
Bali’s coastline still faces the serious problem of marine litter, especially plastic trash, and pollution entering the ocean through streams and rivers, as well as seepage from areas of coastal infrastructure development.
Omnipresent plastic trash is one of the greatest examples evidencing the serious management problems for Bali’s marine ecosystem, Ketut S. Putra, country executive director for Conservation International Indonesia (CI), told Bali Daily recently.
“During several diving sessions, we still found plastic litter and abandoned net fouling and tangling the coral. This could cause the corals to die and disturb the underwater scenery.”
Various forms of pollution, most notably plastic and other kinds of garbage, were apparent at many sites around Bali, he said, adding that the sources of pollution included dumping by ships and boats along the coast and streams, as well as more distant sources transported through ocean currents.
According to results of monitoring by CI, the amount of litter and pollution has increased significantly over the past several decades, in proportion to Bali’s growing human population and the increasingly ubiquitous use of plastics in packaging.
“Around the 1970s, the only stream that showed obvious signs of pollution was one in the center of Denpasar. Today, unfortunately, most streams around Bali appear polluted by plastics and other waste, much of which is subsequently transported into the coastal marine environment by stream flow,” said Lyndon DeVantier, CI’s coral expert who has spent considerable time in Bali since 1975.
The issue of littering and water quality is also part of the conservation priorities recommended by the Bali Rapid Marine Assessment Program report published last year. The report contains results of a 2011 survey on the island’s seas.
The program, a cooperation between the provincial Maritime and Fishery Affairs Agency, Conservation International Indonesia (CI), Warmadewa University and South-East Asia Center for Ocean Research and Monitoring, was conducted to provide recommendations to build a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in Bali.
“There is significant potential for the development of MPA in Bali, as long as sufficient logistic resources and long-term support are provided. However, continuing impact from litter and other forms of pollution, and poorly managed tourism development can be major obstacles,” Emre Turak, CI’s coral expert, said in the report.
Documents from the report showed plastic litter and silt fouling the reef in Nusa Penida and abandoned net tangling corals on the northwest coast of Bali.
Turak said a number of strategies could be employed or expanded to reduce the amount and impact of plastic and other pollution, such as by encouraging biodegradable packaging as much as practicable, continuing education campaigns in mass media and schools, as well as voluntary and funded clean-up activities on beaches and reefs.
Improving stream and river water quality to reduce the transport of litter and pollutants also needed to be done through public education campaigns on appropriate waste disposal and restoration of riverside vegetation.
“We hope the Bali administration will be serious in improving the management of coastal and marine areas, so that the island could still enjoy the economic benefits from its marine resources,” Ketut emphasized.
He said the governor’s goal to eliminate the use of fertilizers and pesticides in Bali’s agriculture by 2014 was highly commendable and would certainly have a positive effect on the pollution problem.
However, much more needed to be done, including a strong public education campaign, backed with enforcement and fines, to stop the widespread practice of littering and waste-dumping in waterways, all of which eventually leads to the sea.
Efforts to seriously reduce the amount of plastic packaging from retail outlets, such as a ban on using plastic bags, should also be strongly considered, he added.
Among the island’s coastal areas facing a garbage problem is Amed, one of the popular diving and snorkeling sites located in Karangasem.
Reef Check Indonesia Foundation and Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) have been working with the community in Amed to install a rubbish trap on the river.
“Amed is a dry area, so during the dry season rubbish accumulates on the dry river bed. When the wet season comes, this rubbish is washed into the bay — choking coral, killing fish and negatively impacting on tourism,” Riyan Heri from CORAL said.
Using common materials, they constructed a trap made from thick bamboo uprights, net and ropes, put it upstream of the river mouth and used it to catch the rubbish before it entered the ocean.