Growing up in Bali, Gary Bencheghib saw firsthand the direct impact plastic pollution was having on his home island, both on the community and to the environment.
Sungai Watch, a community river cleanup organization was launched by Gary in 2019 with the mission to protect Bali’s waterways via mass river cleanups and development of affordable and replicable trash barrier solutions to prevent plastics from entering the ocean.
Thanks to strong community involvement, Sungai Watch hosts weekly cleanups that receive up to 200 volunteers (Sungai Warriors), always adhering to relevant safety protocols.
Sungai Watch’s main objective is to install TrashBarriers on the island of Bali to protect and maintain Balinese subaks (traditional Balinese irrigation channels), small streams and rivers up to 20m wide.
In 2020, Sungai Watch achieved their goal of installing 25 TrashBarriers in South Bali between the Badung and Tabanan Regencies. Sungai Watch’s target for 2021 is to install barriers in 100 rivers in Bali by the end of the year.
The three main TrashBarrier models currently in use include the Blocker (a grid-type system made from galvanized wire or stainless steel that blocks any plastics flowing through), the Floater (a system of individual elements composed of PVC pipes and a galvanized steel frame that sits 35cm below the water) and the Walker (made up of blue barrels and a large steel frame that operators can walk on).
Sungai Watch recently released its first ever River Plastic Report, a monthly report that explores what types of plastics and most common brands are present in Bali’s rivers.
In early 2021, massive currents of plastics washed up on shore around Bali, specifically Kuta and Jimbaran Beach. There has never been a more important time to address plastic pollution. With 90% of plastic pollution in our ocean originating from rivers and streams, Sungai Watch believes that their River Plastic Report will expose the true sources of the problem as well as inspire solutions to these issues.
The first River Plastic Report provides data from 9 river cleanups spanning August and September 2020 where 5.2 tons of trash was collected by 512 volunteers. All trash collected by Sungai Watch is manually sorted and brand audited.
Through the Report, all types of plastics found in the rivers are analyzed by two main categories – Recyclables and Residual Waste. 65% of the trash collected is considered residual and cannot be recycled according to Indonesian standards, while 35% can be recycled. The Report breaks down Recyclable Waste into two different categories, Fast Moving Consumer Goods products (FMCGs) and Unbranded Waste. FMCGs are further analyzed by brand.
“Our goal with the River Plastic Report is really to provide transparency as to what is in our rivers and start an open dialogue with the corporations, government and society at large, to determine solutions. We need to improve waste management at a mass level, but really start to rethink how we package our products,” explained Gary.
The full report can be downloaded at makeachange.world/sungaiwatch
Sungai Watch also plans to expand its operations to Java this year, tackling the Citarum River, where Gary’s environmental journey first began. Back in 2017, Gary and his brother Sam set out to paddle down the Citarum River, the “world’s most polluted river” on kayaks made from plastic bottles. The goal of this mission was to raise awareness about the highly toxic chemicals and masses of plastic bottles in these waters.
After watching the brothers’ videos, the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment delivered an on-camera commitment to an emergency clean-up plan of the river and in December 2017, Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, announced a 7-year full rehabilitation plan of the Citarum.
Sungai Watch also recently launched Indonesia’s first Trash Hotline – where anyone can report trash in or around rivers via a dedicated WhatsApp line. To report trash locations in Bali, please send a photo and exact pin location to: +62 8123-6666-188 and a team will be dispatched to survey the situation and develop a plan to clean it up.
Sungai Watch recently responded to a report of a completely clogged river channel leading to the Dreamland Beach. Over 4 days, the Sungai Watch team in coordination with the Badung Regency Environmental and Cleanliness Department (DLHK) successfully removed 200 tons of plastics and wood from the Dreamland River, restoring it to its’ natural state.
How can you help? Join a weekly cleanup in Bali; stay updated through the Sungai Watch Instagram account. Companies and individuals can also sponsor a TrashBarrier which provides funding for Sungai Watch operations.
To donate and help fund Sungai Watch operations, please visit: kitabisa.com/campaign/balidaruratsampahplastik