The Balinese Sludge Pit

posted by / News / October 16, 2013

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

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  • Susie Crick

    Great article Kyle! Thanks for showing people the problems that are happening in Bali, and sourcing solutions to start to fix the issues. Love your work!!

  • Cody Riechers

    We don’t all have money to donate to projects like this, but we all can make play a key part in a clean ocean by being sure to leave the beach with less trash on it than before we paddled out. It’s our responsibility to be stewards of the ocean. Let’s be conscious of how our every action affects the world around us.

  • Aaron P

    I haven’t been to Bali yet, but it is on my short list of places to surf. It sickens me that something like this could ruin that dream for me. So often I think we have this, “well what can I do?” mentality. Thanks Kyle for letting us know exactly what we can do to keep this place going for years to come!

  • Drew

    How many surfers & tourists go to Bali every season? If we all donate just $5 USD there will be more than enough money to fund this project and help establish a better system for cleaning up trash, collecting future trash, recycling, and overall management.

  • Grace King

    It’s crucial that we take notice of the environmental degradation occurring, and the impact it is having on the places we love. I mean, we wouldn’t want our paradise to be ruined right? Thanks for the article Kyle.

  • Wyatt

    Thanks for the info and all the hard work to share these issues!!! Majorly concerning given that I’ve surfed Ulus and never knew about that trash/sewage pile!

  • Castaway

    Ah what a drag. It still feels like that $20,000 would only be a drop in the bucket for the big surf brands who have used Bali as there backdrop for thousands of marketing campaigns and contests. Shit the top ten on the WCT are hitting million dollar earning marks. How is 20K stopping this project? Seems unreal but I guess thats the way it is. Never been to Bali but have plenty of friends who have. This is just another sad story of the negative effects of tourism and surf tourism into fragile eco-sytems. Hope they can get this handled, the locals dont deserve to have there homes and lives negatively altered for the capital gain of businesses. Surfing is really becoming a double edged sword.