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Protecting Bali's Beaches and its Tourism Reputation.

Pollution on Bali's Beaches Hotly Debated in Series of Articles Published in Nusa Bali.

(11/26/2006) Occupying page-one of the Indonesian language Nusa Bali for the past week have been a series of reports highlighting pollution along some of Bali's main tourist beaches.

According to the report, testing carried out along Bali's Sanur Beach, Pulau Serangan and Kuta Beach over the past several years have identified levels of pollution at levels exceeding government guidelines. The pollution is also blamed for the algae bloom that is in evidence on a number of popular beaches blamed with destroying local coral reefs.

According to Nusa Bali, testing conducted in 2005 and 2006 along Sanur Beach by PT Bahtera Lestari at a distance of 100 meters from the shoreline show worrying levels of nitrates and other chemicals. Dody Prasetia, an employee of the testing firm, pointed out that the level of pollutants identified by the testing did not suggest a very high state of pollution but admitted levels of pollution might be higher if tests were conducted closer to the shoreline.

Source of the Pollution Problem

According to Nusa Bali, the pollution found in the area is due to run-off of chemical fertilizers from local agriculture as well as waste-water and sewerage from local hotels, restaurants and housing compounds. The seaside landfill project (TPA) located near Serangan Island is cited as the source of high pollution levels surrounding Serangan Island where particulate nitrogen and bacteria pathogens of 0.005 ppm have been recorded.

Responding to reports in the local press, Bali's Vice Governor, I GN Alit Kusuma Kelakan, convened a meeting of provincial environmental officials last week who presented the results of studies carried out by Bali's Udayana University showing unacceptable levels of nitrates, ammonia, and e-coli bacteria in Bali's seas.

Seminyak Also Affected

A follow-up page-one report in Nusa Bali reported that not only Sanur beach was affected by pollution, but that pollution levels along Bali's popular Seminyak beach are at least as high. Quoting the Director of the Bali environmental group BaliFokus, Yuyun Ismawati, who said that a number of beaches in Bali were equally polluted "if not worse" than the levels found in Sanur. Recent studies carried out by BaliFokus found nitrates at 0.13 milligrams per liter (mpl), much higher than results in Sanur (0.002 mpl) and Serangan (0.005 mpl). Testing along Seminyak also showed the trace presence of heavy metals including copper, zinc, tin and nickel.

Dodi told Nusa Bali that local hotels and restaurants are major contributors to the pollution of Bali's oceans with many operations directly venting their sewage into the adjacent seas. Claiming his group once found a hotel pumping its septic waste directly into the sea, Dodi said there are many restaurants and hotels committing similar offenses with numerous outlet pipes visible along the shore at low tide.

Meanwhile local parliamentarians have called on the government to take concrete steps to save Bali's beaches and the island's image as a leading tourism destination. I Made Urip and Gde Sumarjaya Linggih called for serious attention to be paid to the problem and the pollution levels which exceed strict guidelines set forth in a decree of the Governor issued in 2000.

Be Open About the Pollution Problem

Ida Ayu Agung Mas told Nusa Bali that in this era of globalization Bali must embrace international environmental standards and should not try to "cover up" its pollution problems. The female legislator active in environmental affairs said: "the results should not be concealed in order to protect the number of tourist arrivals to Bali." According to Agung Mas, if Bali does not reveal the results of these studies, someone else will.

I Made Urip said, "the government must follow-up the analysis (of sea pollution), in order that tourism to Bali is not affected." He added that if the government moves quickly Bali's image as a tourism destination can be preserved, adding: "Bali before had problems with safety and sickness. Both of these were addressed. Now is the time for the local government to handle this environmental threat."

Late in the week of daily page-one coverage of Bali's sea pollution problem in the local press, Denpasar's Tourism Service (Dinas Pariwisata) joined the chorus calling for decisive action to halt the pollution of Bali's beaches.