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Building with Nature programme in Indonesia wins Dutch engineering award


The programme in Northern Java to stop coastal erosion through Building with Nature has won the annual award for innovative engineering solutions (‘Vernufteling’) in the Netherlands. The programme was submitted by project partner Witteveen+Bos. On behalf of the project, Rob Nieuwkamer from Witteveen+Bos, received the award on Wednesday 16 March 2016 in the presence of many prominent people from the engineering world.

The award gives a wonderful boost to the Building with Nature Indonesia consortium, which is currently carrying out this pilot project in the Demak district in Northern Java. According to the jury the semipermeable dams combine several unique qualities: ‘It helps to regenerate eroded mangrove greenbelts along the tropical coasts, the dam is made out of locally available materials and the design enables it to be built by the local community. This natural breakwater can be a solution to a much bigger area: a multitude of tropical coasts is struggling with decreasing mangroves. It is an innovative application of an age-old concept, with great economical and social impact.’

This Building with Nature initiative in Indonesia enhances coastal resilience for residents by avoiding further coastal flooding and erosion. The solution is low-tech, but high concept: in the most heavily eroded parts of the Demak coastline, this programme is building permeable dams to attenuate the waves and trap the sediment. This brings the massive coastal erosion to a halt and stimulates the natural re-growth of the mangrove greenbelt. The mangrove forest should take over the role of the dams and attenuate the waves and keep the sediment in place. In addition, the soft solution of coastal protection by mangroves brings back the ecological value of the area.

The Building with Nature project not only constructs permeable dams, but also provides residents with a long term perspective for sustainable economic development through sustainable aquaculture. The local population is closely involved in the construction and maintenance of the dams and the aquaculture ponds. The partners further aim for replication and scaling up of the Building with Mangroves approach to other rural and urban areas in Indonesia, including through capacity building, knowledge exchange and embedding in policies and planning.

Rob Nieuwkamer: "This is a great award to receive. While the project is low-tech, the jury has recognised that thorough knowledge is required about local and ecological circumstances. The private public partnership of this programme is vital for realising a lasting solution. It involves much more than just those dams. "

Building with Nature Indonesia programme is a cooperation between the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (KKP) and Ministry of Public Work and Human Settlement (PUPR) on behalf of the Government of Indonesia and the Ecoshape Consortium. Wetlands International coordinates the initiative in partnership with consultancy agency Witteveen+Bos, knowledge institutes Deltares, Blue Forest,  Wageningen University & Research Centre, IMARES and UNESCO-IHE, and the Diponegoro University, and Local Government of Central Java Province and Demak District.