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For decades, tourists have flocked to the Indonesian island of Bali to surf, snorkel and sunbathe on its perfect beaches.
But now the island has declared a garbage emergency after the country’s most popular tourist beaches were inundated with a rising tide of plastic waste.
A 5.8km stretch of beach on the island’s western coast was declared an emergency zone after authorities realised that the volume of plastic being washed up was endangering the tourist trade.
Workers sent in to Jimbaran, Kuta and Seminyak beaches, among the island’s busiest, were carting off up to 100 tons of junk a day at the peak of the cleanup.
Plastic pollution on Bali has soared in recent years and has become a major concern for visitors and residents.
“It is awful. People just don’t care, it’s everywhere, it’s everywhere,” Gulang, a hotel worker who declined to give his second name, said.
“The government does something, but it is really just a token thing.”
He said much of the pollution on Bali was down to habitual fly tipping that sees rubbish carried out to sea during the rainy season and blamed much of the problem on the indifference of many islanders to the issue.
But he said municipal refuse management was inadequate. He often resorts to using waste disposal facilities at the hotels where he works for domestic rubbish.
Kelly Slater, the US world surfing champion, warned after a visit in 2012 that pollution on the island was getting so bad it could soon make surfing impossible.
The island’s government has made some moves to tackle the issue.
Last year, authorities said they would aim to ban polythene bags by next year, following a campaign launched by two schoolgirls and endorsed by celebrities including Australian surfing champion Mick Fanning.
But much of what arrives on its beaches comes from other parts of the heavily polluted Java Sea.
Indonesia is the secondbiggest maritime plastic polluter in the world after China. The river of Citarum in West Java has been described as the most polluted river in the world.
An estimated eight million metric tons of plastic were released into the world’s oceans in 2010, according to a University of Georgia study. Indonesia accounted for up to 1.29 million tons, more than 10% of the total.
The Indonesian government has pledged to spend up to $1-billion (R12-billion) a year to clean up its seas. – The Telegraph, additional reporting by Ruth Christie in Bali