Drowning in Waste : Bali’s Landfill Crisis and Its Rippling Effects

The burning landfills – Suwung TPA in South Denpasar, Mandung TPA in Tabanan Regency, and Temesi TPA in Gianyar – have declared a state of emergency. 
The lush, tropical paradise of Bali has been engulfed in toxic fumes and rising waste, as its three major landfills continue to burn out of control. The island is facing an unprecedented waste management crisis, with over 6,000 tons of waste now left stranded, raising significant concerns for public health, the environment, and the very essence of sustainability that Bali has long been striving for.


Emergency Status Declared In Bali Over Landfill Fires

The burning landfills – Suwung TPA in South Denpasar, Mandung TPA in Tabanan Regency, and Temesi TPA in Gianyar – have declared a state of emergency. While these landfill sites are tucked away from the tourist’s eye, the impact of their burning has been felt island-wide, with declining air quality levels raising alarms.
I Gede Susilsa, the Secretary of Tabanan Regency, confirmed the emergency status and highlighted the extensive collaboration underway to combat the fires, involving local firefighting teams, the army, the community, and the National Disaster Management Agency.
The fires have been relentless, smoldering into their tenth day, with toxic fumes from burning plastic waste further degrading air quality. The situation is exacerbated by trapped methane gas, created by rotting organic waste, which is also being released into the atmosphere.
The human toll of this crisis is becoming increasingly evident. Families living at the landfill sites have been relocated, and an additional 63 people have been evacuated from the vicinity of the fires. Deputy Major of Denpasar, I Kadek Arya Wibawa, has reported smoke plumes affecting his office, located just 500m from the landfill, and highlighted the health interventions being made, including mask distribution and health screenings for respiratory distress.
However, the crisis does not stop at air quality. With landfills no longer accepting waste, trash is piling up across the island. Images shared by environmental NGO Sungai Watch depict Bali’s rivers clogged with an increased load of waste, challenging the island’s waste management infrastructure and threatening its natural beauty.

The Working Solutions

The pressure is now on the neighboring Integrated Processing Sites (TPST) and Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Waste Processing Sites (TPS3R) to handle the additional waste load, a situation that could quickly become untenable. Memories of waste piling up on the streets earlier in the year, when access to landfills and recycling facilities was blocked, are still fresh in the minds of the local community.
Efforts to quell the fires are in full swing, with round-the-clock operations from fire trucks and helicopters, and the implementation of a water injection system, similar to those successfully used in Sulawesi landfill fires. Officials are hopeful that these measures will soon bring the fires under control.
But the most immediate threat to both locals and tourists remains the air quality. Popular tourist destinations downwind of the fires, including Kuta, Seminyak, Legian, and Canggu, are bearing the brunt of the smoke. Despite the blue skies, air quality levels have been consistently in the red zone since the fires began.
This crisis in Bali underscores the fragility of our environments and the need for sustainable waste management solutions. It serves as a stark reminder that even in paradise, the consequences of mismanaged waste and environmental neglect are never far away. The challenge now is to extinguish not just the fires, but to address the systemic issues that led to this crisis, ensuring the health and safety of both the people and the paradise they call home.