Campaign to ban plastic bags in Bali

This is how we like to think of Bali
This is how we like to think of Bali

We’re in danger of loving Bali to death. If you’re travelling there, beware some beaches are rubbish dumps: dead animals, syringes, diapers and tonnes of plastic. It’s partly due to monsoonal rains pushing trash onshore, but it’s also a result of environmental degradation due to increasing numbers of travellers to Indonesia’s most popular island destination in the heart of the Indian Ocean. We Australians visit at a rate of 16,000 a week, and now Bali needs our help to clean it up.

…and this is how we expect the sea to be in Bali
…and this is how we expect the sea to be in Bali

Petition to clean up Bali

Governor Made Mangku Pastika has been forced to rescind his position that the plastic tsunami is just an “annual phenomenon”, after residents as young as 10 launched an online petition to ban plastic bags in Bali. Bali has been named third on a list of the world’s top 50 surfing spots, by CNN, but it’s hard to see how that status can remain in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Rubbish litters Kuta Beach
Garbage litters Kuta Beach

The rubbish slick stretches the length of the island’s busiest tourist strip, from Uluwatu in the south, through Kuta and Seminyak, to Canggu in the north. Waste generated by tourists and locals is dumped illegally in Bali’s inland creeks because the waste collection and processing systems on the island are not up to the task. Governor Pastika has told the group of youngsters that if they gained one million signatures on their petition, that he would ban the manufacture, distribution and use of plastic bags on Bali, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Avaaz.Org – a site specialising in community petitions – is the place to go to add your click of support. So far over 20,000 people have signed it. The message on the site is loud and clear:  “Bali is our home and covered by waste of plastic. We want to stop this. We want to collect 1 million signatures to create and activate a law that forbids the use of plastic bags on Bali. It only takes one action…Sign…it has been done before in other places. So together we can do this for Bali.Thank you, Melati 12 and Isabel 10.”

Why is Pastika waiting for a million? Maybe he hopes it’s such a large number there is little hope of reaching that quota, and he won’t have to take action. It shouldn’t need a petition for urgent action, in this day and age where environmental degradation is among the top catastrophes facing our planet. The chairman of Bali’s tourism board, Ngurah Wijaya, has been quoted in the past as saying: “We are loving Bali to death”.

Supplies of clean water threatened

Does Bali need any more visitors to pollute its shores? As demand grows for upscale resorts and more tourist facilities in general, the undersupply of clean water grows exponentially, along with the rubbish problem. Bali’s zoning regulations require a minimum of 30 per cent of the island be covered by forest, but that figure is now 23 per cent and falling.

Upscale resorts use a lot of fresh water
Resorts use a lot of fresh water

The environment blog MongaBay recently talked to Professor Thomas Reuter, from Melbourne University’s Asia Institute, who explained that “… tourists use enormous amounts of water compared to Balinese people. Most people in Bali still have a traditional bathroom, where two people can have a shower with a large bucket of water. The water usage per day of tourists is very much greater. And there are all the swimming pools and the gardens that have to be watered. Bali has now reached a point where the water supply is absolutely exhausted. There isn’t any more water to be distributed and in fact agriculture has suffered.”

Beautiful Jervis Bay where plastic bags were banned 10 years ago
Beautiful Jervis Bay where plastic bags were banned 10 years ago

In New South Wales, the coastal holiday spot of Jervis Bay – one of the most pristine places I’ve ever visited in Australia – has been free of plastic bags for 10 years. If Jervis Bay can do it, then Bali can do it. I’ve clicked my support for the online petition. Please take a few seconds to do the same. Bali will love you for it.

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