Footage of Bali landfills on fire goes viral as toxic fumes engulf the island

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Bali is battling against raging fires across the island that started at one of its biggest open landfill sites.

On Thursday, firefighters rushed to put out a massive blaze at Suwung TPA landfill in south Denpasar — one of the largest waste disposal sites in Bali.

According to local reports, the inferno quickly consumed a huge chunk of the landfill with locals and tourists alike taking to social media to share grim footage of the plumes of smoke billowing into the sky.

It is located just 6.5km from popular Sanur Beach to the east and 7.5km from Kuta Beach to the west — so the smoke could be seen and smelt from miles away.

Tourists as far as Canggu, a popular resort village, reported a burning plastic smell in the air as fire crews continue to try combat the flame.

Helicopters have been deployed to water bomb the site from above, while excavators are turning through the trash to help release the heat smouldering beneath and cut fire break lines across the massive site, The Bali Sun reports.

The Suwung TPA site covers around 32 hectares of land with more than 20 to 30 per cent of the site so far consumed by the fire, with surrounding areas also impacted.

Made Rentin, the chief executive of the Bali Province suggested the extended dry season may have contributed to igniting the fire with more breaking out across the island.

Over the weekend, Madung TPA, another open landfill also caught fire. It is located l16km northwest of Tanah Lot Temple and 22km from Canggu.

Fire crews, together with the army, police and local community members managed to get the biggest flame under control but footage from Sunday shows embers on the site as it continues to burn.

“Now we carry out a spraying operation every three hours. Even though there are no flames, we spray once every three hours until the fire is completely extinguished,” a spokesman for the Tabanan Regency Government, Anak Agung Ngurah Trisna Dalem, told reporters on Sunday.

Meanwhile, on Monday a third fire broke out at a landside in the Gianyar Regency called Temesi TPA. Teams moved quickly and officials confirmed the blaze is now under control.

However, like the other two landfill sites, mountains of waste continue to smoulder toxic smoke.

Some experts have warned that the fire at Suwung that broke out last Thursday could continue for weeks as methane gas trapped beneath the dangerously dry mountain of waste remains a huge fire risk.

There are now concerns about air quality in the region, with many who live on the perimeter of the landfill site exposed to dangerous amounts of toxic smoke, according to The Bali Sun.

Locals and tourists have taken to social media to share their experiences with some complaining of itchy and burning sensations in the eyes and difficulty breathing.

The publication reported many parents claim their children have been suffering from sinus and chest infections for weeks without a bacterial infection or virus showing up in hospital testing.

Meanwhile, as the fires continue to impact local communities, with many unable to work as a result, masks, food, and water have been provided, with vulnerable families offered nearby accommodation.

Government buildings are being prepared as shelters and refugee tents, and essential equipment is on standby, The Bali Sun reported.

“Currently all residents (of the Suwung TPA settlement) are accommodated in the service room of the Sernagan Village Head Office,” Mr Rentin told reporters, adding that further evacuation plans are in the works.

Waste problem in Bali

Waste in Bali continues to be a big issue with the government having recently announced that the new tourism tax will be spent on waste management.

International travellers will be charged IDR 150,000 each (about $15) from February 14 next year, including children.

Grim reality of Bali

Bali Governor Wayan Koster said the funds would be used for “the environment, culture and [to] build better quality infrastructure”.

However, it has now been confirmed that up to 70 per cent of funds generated will be spent on waste management, according to The Bali Sun.

As landfill sites continue to burn around the island, acting Governor of Bali, Sang Made Mahendra Jaya said he wants the fires to be a turning point for waste management on the island.

He has since led discussions surrounding how to better educate locals and children about waste management, adding he wants to see schools and businesses independently manage waste. Mr Jana also said when the tourism tax comes into effect early next year, the majority of the funds generated will be used to tackle Bali’s mountain waste management issue.

“50-70 per cent will be for waste handling. The hope is that in 2024 the waste problem will be resolved because funds are available,” he recently told reporters.

Data from Statistics Indonesia revealed that as many as 1.86 million foreign tourists have visited the country as of August 2022 — and because of this, Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno believes that the number of international visitors can rise to 2.5 million by the end of the year.

If the figure is met, the government can bank on upwards of $37.5 million in tax revenue to dedicate to the cause.

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