Bali declares ‘garbage emergency’ amid sea of waste

This photo taken on December 19, 2017 shows a rubbish collector clearing trash on Kuta beach near Denpasar, on Indonesia’s tourist island of Bali. (AFP)
Updated 28 December 2017
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Bali declares ‘garbage emergency’ amid sea of waste

KUTA, INDONESIA: Bali’s palm-fringed Kuta beach has long been a favorite with tourists seeking sun and surf, but nowadays its golden shoreline is disappearing under a mountain of garbage.
Plastic straws and food packaging are strewn between sunbathers, while surfers bobbing behind the waves dodge waste flushed out from rivers or brought in by swirling currents.
“When I want to swim, it is not really nice. I see a lot of garbage here every day, every time,” Austrian traveler Vanessa Moonshine explains.
“It’s always coming from the ocean. It’s really horrible,” she adds.
Often dubbed a paradise on earth, the Indonesian holiday island has become an embarrassing poster child for the country’s trash problem.
The archipelago of more than 17,000 islands is the world’s second biggest contributor to marine debris after China, and a colossal 1.29 million metric tons is estimated to be produced annually by Indonesia.
The waves of plastic flooding into rivers and oceans have been causing problems for years — clogging waterways in cities, increasing the risk of floods, and injuring or killing marine animals who ingest or become trapped by plastic packaging.
The problem has grown so bad that officials in Bali last month declared a “garbage emergency” across a six-kilometer (3.7-mile) stretch of coast that included popular beaches Jimbaran, Kuta and Seminyak.
Officials deployed 700 cleaners and 35 trucks to remove roughly 100 tons of debris each day to a nearby landfill.
“People with green uniform were collecting the garbage to move it away but the next day I saw the same situation,” said German Claus Dignas, who claimed he saw more garbage with each visit to the island.
“No one wants to sit on nice beach chairs and facing all this rubbish,” he added.
Bali’s rubbish problem is at its worst during the annual monsoon season, when strong winds push marine flotsam onto the beach and swollen rivers wash rubbish from riverbanks to the coast, according to Putu Eka Merthawan from the local environment agency.
“This garbage does not come from people living in Kuta and nearby areas,” he told AFP.
“It would be suicidal if Kuta people were doing it.”

Mount Agung

Some 72 kilometers from Kuta, Mount Agung has been threatening to erupt for two months, prompting tourists to cancel visits and displacing tens of thousands of villagers living within a 10 kilometer-radius of the volcano’s crater.
But the island’s waste problem is no less of a threat, said I Gede Hendrawan, an environmental oceanography researcher from Bali’s Udayana University.
“Garbage is aesthetically disturbing to tourists, but plastic waste issue is way more serious,” he told AFP.
“Microplastics can contaminate fish which, if eaten by humans, could cause health problems including cancer.”
Indonesia is one of nearly 40 countries that are part of UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign, which aims to halt the tide of plastic trash polluting the oceans.
As part of its commitment, the government has pledged to reduce marine plastic waste by 70 percent by 2025.
It plans to boost recycling services, curb the use of plastic bags, launch cleanup campaigns and raise public awareness.
Still, the scale of the problem facing Indonesia is huge, due to its population of more than 250 million and poor waste processing infrastructure.
Hendrawan, who says both locals and tourists are responsible for the island’s rubbish problem, urged authorities to invest more resources to tackle the problem.
“The Bali government should spare more budget to raise people’s awareness to take care of local rivers, not to dump waste,” he said.
“The central government should boost the campaign to reduce use of plastic packaging and ban free plastic bags at convenient stores.”


Mexico demands apology for colonial ‘abuses,’ Spain hits back

Handout photo released by the Mexican presidency showing Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador answering questions during a press conference at the Palacio Nacional, in Mexico City on March 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 25 min ago
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Mexico demands apology for colonial ‘abuses,’ Spain hits back

  • “The government of Spain deeply regrets that the letter the Mexican president sent to his majesty the king, whose contents we firmly reject, has been made public,” it said in a statement

MEXICO CITY: The 500-year-old wounds of the Spanish conquest were ripped open afresh on Monday when Mexico’s president urged Spain and the Vatican to apologize for their “abuses” — a request Madrid said it “firmly rejects.”
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist, reopened the debate over Spain’s centuries of dominance in the New World with a video posted to social media, urging Spanish King Felipe VI and Pope Francis to apologize for the conquest and the rights violations committed in its aftermath.
“I have sent a letter to the king of Spain and another to the pope calling for a full account of the abuses and urging them to apologize to the indigenous peoples (of Mexico) for the violations of what we now call their human rights,” Lopez Obrador, 65, said in the video, filmed at the ruins of the indigenous city of Comalcalco.
“There were massacres and oppression. The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross. They built their churches on top of the (indigenous) temples,” he said.
“The time has come to reconcile. But let us ask forgiveness first.”
Spain’s reaction was swift and unequivocal.
“The government of Spain deeply regrets that the letter the Mexican president sent to his majesty the king, whose contents we firmly reject, has been made public,” it said in a statement.
“The arrival, 500 years ago, of Spaniards to present Mexican territory cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations,” it said.
“Our two brother nations have always known how to read our shared past without anger and with a constructive perspective, as free peoples with a shared history and extraordinary influence.”

Lopez Obrador took office in December after a landslide election win that represented a firm break with Mexico’s traditional political parties.
A folksy populist, he pulls no punches in going after traditional elites — but had so far cultivated cordial relations with Spain, including during a visit to Mexico City by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez earlier this year.
Lopez Obrador made the remarks during a visit to his native Tabasco state, in southern Mexico.
He was later due to visit the nearby city of Centla. On March 14, 1519, the site was the scene of one of the first battles between Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes and the indigenous peoples of the land now known as Mexico.
With the help of horses, swords, guns and smallpox — all unknown in the New World at the time — Cortes led an army of less than 1,000 men to defeat the Aztec empire, the start of 300 years of Spanish rule over Mexico.