Bali’s iconic beaches have transformed into rubbish dumps with tonnes of filth piling higher than the deck chairs where Australian tourists once sunned themselves on holiday.
The once-popular Kuta and Jimbaran beaches are now deserted and strewn with washed-up bottles, bags and plastic, leaving them looking more like a tip than an idyllic tourist destination.
Between 30 and 60 tonnes of trash is being collected from Bali’s most popular beaches each day, with the problem at its worst from December to March, when seasonal winds and heavy rain wash rubbish onto the beach.
But locals believe the problem is worse than ever this year, creating another crisis for the island as workers struggle due to the Covid-19 pandemic denying them the usual flood of tourists.
Normally, individual resorts pay an army of cleaners to work around the clock removing plastic rubbish from beaches.
However, many of them have been released from employment due to the lack of tourists, with Covid seeing arrivals fall a staggering 95 per cent.
The monsoon season usually brings in trash but this year authorities say it has become worse with 30 to 60 tonnes of garbage being collected from Bali’s best known beaches each day. These pictures were taken over the weekend at Kuta Beach
Rubbish continues to plague the usually-idyllic beach, with locals unable to keep up with the quantity of debris (pictured, Kuta Beach on Saturday)
More than 30 tonnes of rubbish was removed on Friday from beaches in Kuta, Legian and Seminyak but the next day the amount doubled to 60 tonnes
Local residents sunbake on a clean and rubbish free Kuta Beach in early September before the monsoon season hit and left it looking like a rubbish tip
Shocking photos have emerged of local surfers and beachgoers sunbaking and walking along shorelines strewn with mountains of plastic cups, cans, bottles, discarded footwear and other debris.
The beaches are usually packed with hundreds of international tourists kept away by the coronavirus pandemic.
The trash continues to grow, despite the desperate efforts by local authorities to clear the mess on a daily basis.
Wayan Puja, from Badung’s environment and sanitation agency, which covers the Kuta, Seminyak and Jimbaran beaches, says the influx of trash is seemingly never-ending.
‘We have been working really hard to clean up the beaches, however, the trash keeps coming,’ Wayan said.
‘Every day we deploy our personnel, trucks and loaders.’
More than a million Australians flocked to Bali each year before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Pictured is Kuta Beach
Thousands visit Bali’s famous Kuta Beach (pictured pristine outside monsoon season) each year
Beachgoers walk past mountains of trash including plastic waste on Kuta beach, near Denpasar, in Bali on January 6
An army of workers collect plastic waste as they clean up Kuta beach on January 6 as the former tourist mecca becomes inundated with rubbish
In recent months, there have been days where locals have removed 30 tonnes of rubbish from beaches in Kuta, Legian and Seminyak before returning the following day to find the mounds of garbage had doubled to 60 tonnes, he said.
Wayan added while rubbish flooding onto Bali beaches was a regular phenomenon at this time of year, due to weather conditions, it was getting worse.
Dr Gede Hendrawan, the head of the Centre for Remote Sensing and Ocean Sciences at Bali’s Udayana University, said the biggest problem was Indonesia’s ineffective rubbish handling systems.
‘The biggest problem is actually the trash handling hasn’t been effective in Indonesia. Bali has just started to reorganise it, also Java has just started,’ he said.
Debris scattered across the sand lining Kuta beach has rendered the popular tourist destination almost unrecognisable
Indonesia’s ineffective rubbish handling systems has been blamed as Bali’s Governor, Wayan Koster, urges a serious clean-up for beaches (pictured, trash on Kuta Beach)
The cleaning up system does not have adequate equipment and resources to quickly remove rubbish from beaches. Currently, they use trucks and loaders (pictured on Kuta Beach on Saturday)
Locals are disappointed at what their beaches have become – the site of a rubbish tip (pictured) littered with plastic
Kuta Beach (pictured) is rubbish-free for nine months of the year, until the monsoon season hits in December (pictured, the clean beach in September)
Bali’s beaches are usually packed with international tourists all year round. Pictured are tourists on Kuta Beach in March, a month before Indonesia closed its foreign borders
Bali’s Governor, Wayan Koster, urged serious action to clean up the beaches – which are a huge tourist drawcard.
‘The Badung administration should have a trash handling system at Kuta Beach that is complete with adequate equipment and human resources so they can work quickly to clean up the trash washed onto the beach,’ he said.
‘Moreover, in the rainy season when there are tourists visiting, the trash handling systems should be working 24 hours a day. Don’t wait for tomorrow.’
Indonesia is among the worst contributors to plastic pollution, with 200,000 tonnes of plastic washing into the ocean, according to a study published by the journal Nature Communications in 2017.
Siblings Rizkika Arshanty and Rizkella Triara, from Jakarta said they were disappointed to visit Kuta Beach and find it inundated with rubbish.
Thousands of Australian tourists would normally be in Bali over the summer holiday period but the coronavirus pandemic has halted overseas travel.
Sadly, Kuta Beach doesn’t look this clean and pristine all year round with the shoreline inundated with mountains of washed up rubbish during the monsoon season
Former Australian Bachelorette Anna Heinrich at Finns Beach club in Bali. More than a million Australians travel to Indonesia each year and make up more than a quarter of Bali tourists – but this has dropped to zero during the pandemic
Indonesia has recorded 1,111,671 coronavirus cases and 30,770 deaths as of Thursday.
Indonesia closed its international borders in April, which crippled the Balinese economy – normally almost entirely dependent on foreign tourism.
Businesses reopened to Bali locals in July after a three month hiatus.
Kuta has transformed from a bustling tourist mecca into a deserted ghost town, forcing accommodation operators to rethink their survival strategy and slash prices.
The problem on Kuta Beach is getting worse each days, despite daily efforts from hardworking crews to clear the debris on a frequent basis
Indonesia is keeping its borders closed to all foreign arrivals until at least January 14 in a bid to halt the spread of the new strains of Covid-19 that have emerged in the UK, South Africa and the US which have spread to other countries, including Australia.
Entry to Indonesia is only open to foreign nationals already holding a valid stay permit who must return a negative coronavirus test before they fly and spend 14 days in hotel quarantine when they arrive in Indonesia.
Bali Governor Wayan Koster remains optimistic about the revival of international tourism on the island, despite rising COVID-19 cases in the country.
‘We have agreed to keep on pushing various policies to return the trust of tourists, especially foreign tourists, to visit Bali. [This is] so that the tourism sector can revive,’ Koster told reporters last month.
Around 1.23 million Australians visited Bali in 2019 – a rise of 5.24 per cent on 2018 figures. Pictured: The Sanur beach
Pre-COVID, more than a million Australians travelled to Indonesia each year and made up more than a quarter of Bali tourists.
Around 1.23million Australians visited Bali in 2019 – a rise of 5.24 per cent on 2018 figures.
Around 20,000 Australians visited Bali at any one time before the pandemic before the number of foreign tourists arriving in Indonesia plunged 60 per cent in March as the outbreak spread worldwide.
As a result, more than 73,000 people have been furloughed and another 2,500 workers have lost their jobs in Bali due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Foreign tourist arrivals in Indonesia slumped 89.22 percent year-on-year to 164,970 in August 2020.
The Indonesian government predicts $14billion will be lost from tourism in 2020 and has introduced a $28billion in fiscal stimulus to fight the downturn.
Kuta Beach is located in the regency of Badung, which normally earns between $19million and $38million from January to June.
The regency had only earned $572,000 from January to June this year.
Locals have had Kuta Beach (pictured in August, devoid of all but one tourist) all to themselves since April when the international borders closed, which will remain closed to tourists until at least January 14