Building with Nature in Indonesia

drone photo frpm above. sediment and mangroves.

Sediment accumulation behind permeable grids in Demak, Indonesia; Photo: Wetlands International

2 February is World Wetlands Day. This year’s theme “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction” focussed on the role of healthy wetlands and how they help us cope with extreme weather events and disasters.
The International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Environment Ministry (BMUB) promotes healthy wetlands around the world as part of its ecosystem-
based adaptation to climate change portfolio.

Millions of people in Northern Java, Indonesia face flooding, erosion and saline intrusion resulting from the loss of mangroves, land subsidence due to ground water extraction and sea level rise. The International Climate Initiative (IKI) is now funding a running pilot project in the district of Demak, Central Java Province in cooperation with the Dutch and Indonesian governments. The aim of the project is to restore the eroding coastline of Java. Furthermore it supports mainstreaming and replication of ecosystem-based adaptation, or, more generally, “Building with Nature”-type solutions that suit urban, rural, muddy and sandy coastlines.

Building with Nature is an innovative approach to coastal and water management challenges. It makes the services that nature provides an integral part of the design of hydraulic infrastructure. Thereby it creates benefits for nature and society - such as adaptation to climate change for instance flood prevention, biodiversity conservation, food supply and carbon sequestration. Furthermore the approach offers an alternative, more sustainable and cost-effective concept to traditional hard infrastructure concepts which have proven ineffective along unstable muddy coastlines and fail to provide the multiple benefits that nature can provide.
Permeable structures that dampen the waves and let mud pass The programme involves construction of permeable sediment trapping structures to rehabilitate the mangrove belts, and the much needed transformation of the aquaculture sector towards sustainable shrimp production, to ensure local income and prevent the future renewed loss of mangroves. The project team works closely together with the local communities in all stages of the programme.

New aspects under the IKI funded programme include integrated water management planning and demonstration activities that offer an alternative to the deep ground water extraction which is currently causing land subsidence. For example, restoration of rivers enables freshwater use for aquaculture and simultaneously allows distribution of sediment on land to mitigate subsidence.

Replication in Indonesia will be supported by mobilising existing knowledge institutes to provide trainings on a broad range of “Building with Nature” measures applicable in a wide range of settings. A help desk facility will be set up that provide on-the-job guidance on all aspects of the project life cycle. The demonstration project in Demak, and lessons learned from Building with Nature projects around the world will be introduced into international policy dialogues on climate change, disaster risk reduction and biodiversity, inspiring national governments to integrate the approach in their plans for adaptation and development.

On behalf of Ecoshape, Wetlands International coordinates the initiative in partnership with the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), Ministry of Public Work and Human Settlement (PU), the Ecoshape Consortium, Witteveen + Bos and Von Lieberman, Deltares, Wageningen University & Research, UNESCO-IHE, the Diponegoro University, and local communities.