The Jakarta Post
Ugly truth: Behind the comfort of five-star hotels on Gili Trawangan, West Nusa Tenggara, are piles of garbage left unattended due to poor waste management. (JP/Tarko Sudiarno)
The idyllic island of Gili Trawangan in North Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, is considered a paradise by many visitors. As one of the three famous Gili islands alongside Air and Meno, it offers beautiful beaches, turquoise waters and stunning underwater scenery.
However, Gili Trawangan’s growing fame has also created environmental issues with tourists reporting sightings of piles of garbage, tarnishing the splendor of the island.
On average, 2,600 visitors, both domestic and international, visit Gili Trawangan every day according to North Lombok administration data last year. Visitors and inhabitants of the island, included in the Gili Indah village administration of Pemenang district, produced up to 10 tons of waste every day, with most ending up in a temporary 22,000-square-meter dump site on the island, Gili Indah village chief M. Taufik said.
While the waste from Gili Meno and Gili Air is transported to a dump site on the Lombok mainland, the same does not apply for Gili Trawangan, which produces more waste than its neighbors. “We have limited transportation facilities and the costs are higher to transport waste from Gili Trawangan to Lombok,” he said.
The dump site area, called bangketan locally, used to be located on the opposite side of the island to the many hotels. However, as the hospitality industry grew, the dump site was moved closer to hotels and residential areas.
Gili Trawangan, the largest of the three Gili islands, also has a larger population and more tourist facilities, including hotels, cafes and bars spread across the 338 hectare Island. Of the 3,900 local residents of Gili Indah Village, 75 percent reside on Gili Trawangan.
More than 200 hotels and 150 restaurants operate on the island. During peak holiday seasons like Christmas and New Year, up to 20 tons of waste can be produced on the island per day.
Andy Hanuri, the manager of the four-star Villa Bella Trawangan, noted that the garbage issues had started to concern visitors in 2015 when some of his guests begun asking him and complaining about the garbage left unattended at the dump site.
Andy said the island’s business players did not mind paying for better waste management. However, he insisted that the fees needed to be based on a clear regulation first, as he recalled that a local official had been arrested by police in 2016 for allegedly embezzling money collected for waste management.
The environment, housing and residential area head of the North Lombok regency, Rusdi, said the administration had acknowledged the waste management issue and had begun preparing a solution. The provincial administration, through his office, had acquired a 6,000-sqm-area on Gili Trawangan that would be turned into an integrated waste management center. The province has allocated Rp 4 billion (US$290,465) for the project.
“We have also received assistance from the Public Works and Housing Ministry to procure the facilities needed for the waste center,” he said adding that the center was expected to be completed this year.
Once completed, the center will be used to recycle local garbage into various useful products, while organic waste will be processed into fertilizer. The remaining unused garbage will be transported from the island to a final dump site.
The administration has also issued a new regulation on waste management this year to provide the legal basis for the collection of fees from businesses and residents to manage waste.
Coordinator of global movement Trash Hero Rima Agustina said it was too simplistic to blame tourism alone.
“From a tourist’s perspective, waste management is a local issue. Tourism has contributed to the mounting trash problem, but in the end, it is [poor] local waste management that has caused the trash to end up on the beach,” she said.
West Nusa Tenggara has become one of the country’s rising stars for tourism, having received support from the central government to boost its numbers of foreign visitors.
However, growing tourism has also contributed to environmental problems, with the influx of visitors leading to greater amounts of waste. The tourism industry in Bali, Indonesia’s most famous resort island, has faced scrutiny following the circulation of a viral video made by a foreign tourist that highlighted the island’s chronic garbage problems. The video shows a diver was swimming in a sea of plastic rubbish.
— Sita W. Dewi contributed to this story from Jakarta