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Calls for 'tourist tax' to tackle ugly problem in Bali

All foreigners arriving in Bali will be required to pay a $15 fee from mid-2024.

A new tourist tax targeting those travelling to Bali should be used to help tackle the holiday hotspot’s $60 million ever-growing waste problem, an Indonesian government minister said.

While the island is often portrayed as an idyllic destination, the grim reality of its growing waste has been simmering in the background for years, with increasingly more stunned tourists posting photos and videos of beaches littered with piles of rubbish on Instagram and TikTok.

The annual phenomenon sees tonnes of plastic wash up on busy beaches like Kuta, Seminyak and Legian during Indonesia’s wet season from October and March.

Foreign tourists walk at a beach in Kuta, Bali, Indonesia, 27 July 2023.
Revenue from Bali's new tourist tax should be used to deal with the island's rubbish problem, officials said. Source: EPA via AAP (EPA)

Tourist tax 'should be used to clean rubbish'

Concerned the waste management problem will become “uncontrollable”, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, told The Bali Sun last week the recently announced tourist tax “is good for Bali”.

“Why not use it to look after its waste,” he said. “Garbage must be cleaned; now there is a smell. I spoke to the Mayor of Denpasar to fix it but don’t use it as a political issue, it’s not good just fix it and reduce the smell.”

The 50-metre-tall illegal open dump in Bali.
Footage of a 50-metre tall illegal open dump in Bali has gone viral. Source: Instagram/@garybencheghib

In its latest move to crack down on unruly visitors, the Indonesian government announced in July every foreigner arriving in Bali will be required to pay a levy of 150,000 Indonesian Rupiah, equivalent to approximately A$15, from mid-2024.

When announcing the new fee, Governor of Bali, Wayan Koster, said the revenue would be used to repair the island’s fragile natural habitats. “Bali’s nature has become a major national and world tourism destination and has indeed made a positive contribution, but on the other hand, it has also had a serious negative impact,” he said.

Closing illegal dumps could cost $60 million

The minister's comments come after a video of an illegal 50-metre-tall “open dump” resembling a massive waterfall filled with trash went viral on Instagram.

The clip was captured by French filmmaker Gary Bencheghib, who lives in Indonesia, and shared online last week, horrifying thousands of viewers who described the sight as “so sad” and “totally heartbreaking”.

“Followed a river filled with plastic and it led to this…” he captioned the footage, in which he and another man can be seen trekking up the hill of rubbish. “I’ve just made it here, right at the foot of this giant open landfill. It’s so high we can’t even see the top and it falls right into the river,” he added.

Mr Bencheghib, 28, and his two siblings founded Sungai Watch in 2020 with the goal of removing plastic pollution from Bali’s rivers, installing barriers and cleaning up illegal dumps. Since March, the trio and 90 volunteers have collected over 1 million kilograms of plastic.

Speaking to the Business Times this week, Mr Bencheghib predicted it will cost US$40 million ($60 million) over the next three years to close down all of the illegal rubbish dumps in Bali.

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