The Balinese Sludge Pit

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Bali's trash epidemic.

As I walked down the steps that lead into the Uluwatu cave, my friend Brook turned and asked if I want to go to a place where most tourists don’t get to see. We hooked a sharp left off the path and less than a minute later, I was disgusted. Here, in the heart of beautiful Bali, was a bubbling swamp of black sludge. The smell of human shit made me gag. The low hum of mosquito nesting grounds made me worry. The dreamy blue tubes only a few meters below the black swamp made me realize what a surreal juxtaposition this was.

The septic pipes that are meant to treat restaurant cooking oil and toilet waste at Uluwatu are broken and the waste now flows directly into the swamp. During the rainy season, the swamp becomes a dirty waterfall that, just like the warnings on storm drains state, “Flows To The Ocean.”

I was in Bali to make a mini-documentary about the waste epidemic. It wasn’t a coincidence that we arrived at the scene I just described. After seeing the sludge pit, I interviewed the head of Project Clean Uluwatu. PCU is an organization that is working to install a liquid waste processor that would take the waste from the sludge pit and treat it properly. This is a $50,000 project and they are $20,000 shy of making it a reality. It is baffling that only $20,000 would make the difference between surfing in clean water as opposed to feces-filled scuzz at one of the most legendary waves in the world.

We don’t all need to roll up our sleeves and get messy in order for a change like this to occur. While that’s an earnest thought, it isn’t a necessity. All we really need to do is support the people who are in the trenches willing to do the work. Organizations like Project Clean Uluwatu are the architects working to fix a broken system. They are willing to do the dirty work for the rest of us. Only we need to give them the financial support to make it happen. If you’ve ever surfed Uluwatu, if you want to surf Uluwatu, if you like the ocean, if you wish something good would happen, then click here to donate, and this sludge pit could be gone by the end of the year. —Kyle Thiermann