Thu, 02 Oct 2003

Bali struggles to manage mountains of garbage

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali

Too many people are producing too much garbage on Bali, spoiling the famed beauty of this paradise isle.

With millions of foreign tourists visiting Bali annually and the rapid growth of the local population due to vast development, the Bali administration is currently facing a very tough job managing its mountains of garbage -- both industrial and domestic.

In Denpasar, the provincial capital of Bali, garbage is scattered throughout the city -- in the market and on every street corner streets, reeking and creating an unhealthy urban environment.

The Denpasar mayoralty has waged a war against garbage for the past few years in an effort to create a cleaner and more pleasant city.

Yet, the efforts are proving to be futile in the absence of an effective waste management system. In neighboring areas like the regencies of Badung and Tabanan, and Gianyar in Ubud, the problem is even worse.

Denpasar alone produces around 1,525 cubic meters of garbage per day, while Badung produces 755 cubic meters. Tabanan receives 360 cubic meters of waste per day, and Gianyar around 910 cubic meters of garbage a day. These areas are all prominent tourist destinations.

The Denpasar mayoralty has thus joined hands with these regencies to deal with the garbage problem, which mostly stems from a shortage of human resources, outdated technology and an inadequate management system, and most importantly, a lack of funds.

"Bali is well-known as an international tourist destination, so our cities must be clean. Cleanliness and hygiene are our utmost priority in maintaining Bali as a paradise for holidaymakers as well as for the local population," said Erwin Suryadarma, a Denpasar mayoralty spokesman.

The administrations of Denpasar, Badung, Gianyar and Tabanan -- called by their acronym Sarbagita -- have set up a joint sanitation agency to study and assess the most appropriate waste management system to apply to the affected areas.

With Rp 80 billion (approximately US$ 10 million) in financial assistance from the World Bank, the four administrations are planning to construct an integrated waste processing plant on a 20-hectare plot of land in Suwung near the resort area of Sanur, which is located some 15 kilometers east of Denpasar.

It is expected that the completed waste processing plant will be able to process the garbage from Sarbagita for at least 20 years.

The Suwung dump site is located near Sanur beach and therefore cannot be expanded further than its original plan.

Made Sudarma, the project's coordinator, said the new waste facility should acquire the appropriate technology to process the garbage.

It is estimated that in the next 20 years, the present dump site would be full of layers of garbage. It is also expected that the daily volume of garbage will double to 3,870 cubic meters for Denpasar, 1,080 cubic meters for Badung, 1,360 cubic meters for Gianyar and 660 cubic meters for Tabanan.

The local government cannot build the waste facility alone, so 13 investors have submitted their proposals to Denpasar.

The investors have to undergo a series of tests before a final selection is made. In the preliminary test in early September, it was found that only six out of 13 prospective investors met the requirements to move on to the next tier of the process.

Sudarma explained that the six investors offered various options of waste processing technology, including three from the United States, Germany and China that offered incineration technology, which produces electricity from processed waste.

Two investors from an Austrian-UK company and one from Germany have proposed the biogas technology, which also produces electricity from garbage.

The remaining investor from Australia offered the bio-culture technology, which processes garbage into cattle feed.

On average, these advanced systems can process around 960 tons to 1000 tons of garbage per day. In order to accommodate this much garbage, a 20- to 22-hectare plot of land will be required.

However, Yuyun Ismawati, an environmental activist and director of Bali Fokus foundation, suggested the local government pay serious attention and be careful not to fall into the trap of investors who offer low-cost technology.

"The incinerator system is an out-of-date and unsustainable waste processing technology, which was replaced (by more advanced technology) long ago in developed countries such as Japan," she explained.

This technology releases toxic pollutants, such as dioxine, into the environment.

"Dioxine is a very dangerous and toxic pollutant, and is also a carcinogen. It will also affect the human immune system, reproductive system and cause other physiological problems."

Yuyun recommended that the local government apply either the biogas or the bio-culture waste processing technology.

"Unfortunately, if we use the biogas system, we will need to procure larger plot of land to process the waste," she said.

Ideally, the garbage should be processed in several loads and in separate locations. "We could build several dump sites and waste processing plants in those areas with the proper technology," she said.

She said what was more important was the active participation of the community. "It is high time for the government to call on to the people to start managing their own garbage. They have to start sorting recyclables and non-recyclables in order to speed up the sorting process at dump sites."

Sudarma said the government had already considered the possible environmental impact of each type of technology offered by the prospective investors, and that they must present further details to a special team consisting of World Bank and local experts.

"We will study all the possibilities comprehensively, as well as their impact on the environment and the community. We cannot confirm the location of the new dump site, as we are still awaiting for official approval," Sudarma said.

The Denpasar mayoralty must have written permission from Bali Governor I Dewa Made Beratha as well as the Ministry of Forestry in regards the proposed Suwung site.

The Suwung area is known as a swampy area covered in mangrove forests, and is vital in preserving the ecosystem and in acting as a natural buffer against the ocean.

Yuyun reiterated her warning for the government as well as the public to be careful in selecting any technological application: "Don't use any low-cost processing technology that could damage the environment."