Turning Paradise Island into Garden Island: Bali

On your travels throughout the archipelago you cannot avoid seeing the rubbish collecting on the streets, in the gutters and rivers. At one time [during the Soeharto era] the streets were swept constantly, and, the rivers cleaned by inmates of the various penitentiaries.

And now, there seems to be a laisse faire attitude by not only Indonesians but also by tourists, and, I don’t mean all travellers because there are many environmentally conscious travellers and thankfully this is on the increase. Respecting not only your environs but also the environment of your country should be a matter of second sense to all residents as well as tourists.

I was pleased to read in the Jakarta Post an article about Ni Wayan Sudji who wants to clean-up the island of Bali in a big way – make it clean and green. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if all the islands in the archipelago adopted her ideas and principles. Here’s the article:

Turning Bali into land of gardens

Agricultural engineer, passionate conservationist and head of Bali province’s Environmental Assessment Agency, Ni Wayan Sudji, wants to see a new twist on Bali’s nickname the Island of the Gods.

“In the past, Bali was known as the Island of the Gardens. I want to get Bali back to the way it was — clean and green,” vows Sudji.

And with her background in agricultural engineering specializing in plant conservation and protection using biological, nonchemical methods, Sudji is well placed to achieve her goal for Bali.

“When I completed my studies at Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java, I brought (plant conservation) technology back to Bali. I worked on commodities crops, such as coffee, coconut and clove plantations, introducing integrated biological pest control solutions that only applied chemicals as a last resort. The aim was to develop our agro-industries within healthy environments.”

And while much has been achieved in environmentally sensitive pest control other areas of Bali’s environment are still in much need of attention, according to Sudji.

“The biggest problem is plastic. There is a jungle of plastic out there clogging waterways and in the land environment also. The EPA is working with major supermarkets to reduce dependency on plastic bags with a drive for people to bring their own bags when they go shopping. Supermarkets give shoppers incentives to reuse bags rather than constantly throwing plastic away,” Sudji said.

At the national level, Sudji believes flooding and its primary cause, illegal logging, are the greatest environmental and economic disasters facing the country. “Flooding because of the environmental impact and destruction it causes and illegal logging because of the loss of forest and the flooding caused when the natural filters of tree roots are lost. Topsoil is also lost, reducing the fertility of the soil and washing it into the river and ocean systems, causing additional damage to the waterways.”

Also of deep environmental concern is the management of solid and liquid wastes.

“Waste is a major problem across the board in Bali; industrial, commercial and at the domestic level. This is in fact a problem all over the world. For Bali to be cleaner and greener we all need to work actively and collectively to solve the problem,” Sudji said.

But getting the message on conservation and environmental protection across is no easy task in a developing nation where many people are more focused on day-to-day survival than on protecting their physical environment. However, Sudji has tapped into the grass roots at village level across Bali giving villages the incentive, equipment and training to manage their own waste.

“With the coming of the wet season, the plastic waste issue is highly visible. There is more rubbish floating in the waterways, for example, and this is washed out to sea or blocks drains so flooding occurs. Local governments are assisting communities to clean up and recycle plastic bags and compost other waste before the wet season hits,” said Sudji, adding that the EPA gives communities the equipment needed to process plastics.

“So when communities are actively working for the conservation and protection of their environments we give help.”

An Environmental Awareness Program for villages was established in 2001 and to date 45 villages across Bali have joined the program that addresses on the ground environmental issues, such as wastewater.

“One example of recycling waste would be for each banjar or village to have its own Wastewater Garden to treat domestic and commercial wastewater. This would prevent polluted runoff into our river systems and create more beautiful villages. In the long term we need to make Bali beautiful from the ground up.”

Sudji’s belief that conservation needs to grow from the grass roots is also seen in the coastal and upland protection programs, run by local communities with input from the EPA.

“We have two communities of differing environments, but Bali needs to be seen as one ecosystem, not divided into smaller environments. We have developed two projects that are interrelated; one is coastline rehabilitation and the other is reforestation in the upland regions.

“A group of fisherman from Serangan carry out beach cleaning and are funded to replant coral. This coral reef conservation project is driven by the local community of fisherman. They recognize they are dependent on a healthy ocean for fishing and tourism so are replanting the coral and rehabilitating the coastline,” said Sudji of the 40 families involved in the project.

Also in Serangan is the Turtle Conservation project, again run and managed by local fishing families with support from the EPA. Upland communities are replanting trees in traditional villages and Udayana University is researching recent drops in upland lakes systems, such as in Bedugal where lake water has been reducing for some time.

“Udayana studies showed evaporation of the lake is very high. This may be due to global warming or because, with illegal logging in other parts of the country, there is less precipitation and, therefore, a drop in rainfall. Traditional villages in the uplands are replanting trees and over time this will assist their environment and protect the soil from erosion during the wet season,” Sudji said.

With her passion for Bali’s environment and her strength of character, Sudji is well armed to take on the battle to protect, conserve and rehabilitate Bali’s natural beauty.

“I have a commitment to make Bali greener and cleaner. Working together we can achieve this,” Sudji said.

(JP/Trisha Sertori)