What is the todays article about – well, now that the rainy season finally started we can see today’s topic nearly every day. Some could see them on the walkway to their houses, others will find them the bigger and smaller roads – but mostly you can see them in their natural location. Rivers and lakes – they vary in shape, size, volume and water quality. To be scientifically correct, you would have to define them by different standards, for example a very small river is a creek or a stream. Furthermore, you can define the different types by water quality and quantity. The same has to be done with the lakes as well, but in this article I do not want to go deeper into the definitions, I am just referring to these different types as land-based surface water.
Currently, there is a lot of rain on the island. Seeing the water falls swelling and the lakes’ watertables rising, is satisfying to watch – soon the dry season will be forgotten…
There are major water shortages in the surface water and they are becoming more severe every year. Taking the rivers as an example of which 65% are drying out every dry season leaving nothing behind but dry sand, sediment and toxic waste, as it has accumulated during the wet season. The same is happening to the lakes on the island – let me take Lake Buyan as an example. Its water level has dropped 3 meters from 2000-2012 and a further 5 meters from 2012 to 2016. Satellite pictures of the surface area of lakes shown in a timelapse, are good indicators of their decreasing volume. The changes can be seen more drastically in shallower lakes than in deeper ones, the surrounding vegetation can serve as an indicator, too.
All this is caused by the country’s increased development that has been accelerating a change in the natural environment including loss of agricultural land, deforestation, and climate change.
Solutions that are focusing on these topics can be provided by the private sector but the main work needs to be done by the government as the problem’s impact can be seen all over the island. Reforestation or a responsible use of the resource forest is one thing to start with, because forests are reducing the surface water a lot and giving it time to infiltrate into the ground where it can be stored longer until the next dry season. Especially in the mountain region this is important, as they provide all the freshwater for the drier south.
Building a dam is also an idea that should be taken into consideration, though it is unnatural and has major effects on the surrounding environment and population.
Apart from the issue of a shortage of freshwater on the island, Bali is facing a severe pollution crisis caused by solid and liquid waste and irresponsible use of fertilizers and pesticides. Due to the lack of a functioning waste management system there is still a lot of waste dumped in the landscape and in illegal dumpsites. This waste is causing a lot of problems for the environment, as all the solid waste that is accumulated in the dry season gets washed into the rivers and lakes in the rainy season, causing the level of toxins released to peak around this time of the year.
Now that we are aware of these issues we can start to act. I would like to take the IDEP Foundation as an example as they are hosting a project, that is called “adopt-a-river”. Students and school kids learn about the pollution of rivers and adopt a section of the river next to them and start cleaning their own home ground section of the river. For more information have a look at their website.
Another solution is already applied in some rivers around the cities: A rake (a bigger mesh) is being put into the rivers to capture some of the solid waste and dispose it in a proper way.
But the only thing that is really helping starts at the beginning of the chain: YOU. We are all responsible for what is happening with our waste. So, if you think, you cannot do anything about it, you are wrong. Start with your own household waste and make sure it ends up in a proper waste management facility, so our kids will be able to enjoy the beauty of this island and the world in the future as we did in the past.
Swidbert Hoeflinger, Student from Germany,
studying Water Resource Management as a Bachelor of Science,
currently interning with the Role Foundation for six months focusing on resource management and water pollution.