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Building with Nature approach prominent during Dutch trade mission to Indonesia


During the Dutch trade mission to Indonesia this week 'Building with Nature' features prominently as a promising sustainable and participatory design approach for water and coastal management in Indonesia. Dutch and Indonesian ministers will visit the large-scale demonstration project at the eroding coast of Northern Java, which is designed according to the principles of Building with Nature. Both countries will also discuss further collaboration to scale up this approach in Indonesia.

Besides Minister Schultz van Haegen (Infrastructure and the Environment) also Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and other ministers traveled to Indonesia together with directors of more than 110 companies, 54 of which are from the Dutch Water and Maritime sector.

Worldwide, coastal managers face the challenge to align the interests of economic development and care for the environment, while coping with challenges such as sea level rise, land subsidence and extreme natural events.

A way to achieve this balancing act is through ‘Building with Nature’, leading to more sustainable solutions to water and coastal management challenges by integrating nature into the design, sometimes in combination with, for example dikes. Examples include natural regeneration of mangroves and salt marshes, which provide protection to the hinterland by tempering the wave force and combating erosion, while benefiting biodiversity, enhancing fisheries and aquaculture and sequestering carbon.

The Netherlands applies this promising approach already since 2008 in projects like the Sand Engine, Room for the River and also in cities like Dordrecht and Rotterdam.

On Tuesday 22 November, Minister Schultz, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), the Governor of Central Java and CEOs will visit the Building with Nature project on the coast of Demak in the north of Central Java which is threatened by severe erosion. MMAF works in this area with Dutch and Indonesian public and private parties and local communities since 2012 to recover lost land using permeable structures that trap sediment thus enabling natural regeneration of the mangrove forest. In addition, sustainable aquaculture is introduced in the hinterland. Earlier this year, this project won the Dutch Vernufteling award for the most innovative engineering project.

Replication of the approach

During the trade mission, the ministries will also explore to expand collaboration, using the project in Demak as a springboard for scaling up Building with Nature in Central Java and elsewhere in Indonesia.

Northern Java’s deltaic shorelines suffer from land subsidence and severe erosion. In some places more than three kilometers of land has already been taken by the sea. This is mainly caused by removal of mangrove belts, aquaculture, implementation of unsustainable coastal infrastructure that disturbs the sediment and water balance and groundwater extraction causing land subsidence. In the long term, over 30 million people face the risk of losing their houses, roads, and valuable arable land.

There are numerous opportunities for applying the Building with Nature approach in Indonesia, such as for coastal and flood defense in cities and rural areas and sustainable port development. On Tuesday, a round-table discussion will take place in port city Semarang where Building with Nature will be explored as an approach to better align coastal and water management measures in the city and adjacent rural areas, in order to achieve coastal security alongside sustainable development and nature restoration that can support fisheries and aquaculture.

Public-private partnership

Wetlands International and Ecoshape work in Demak with the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, Witteveen+Bos, Deltares, Wageningen University and Research, Blue Forests, and UNESCO-IHE, with the support of the Diponegoro University and local communities.

Dutch partners are all members of the Ecoshape consortium; a collaboration between contractors, engineering firms, research institutes, governments and NGOs to implement sustainable solutions in water, by nature to do its work.

The project in Demak is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Dutch Sustainable Water Fund and in additon by Waterloo Foundation, Otter Foundation, Topconsortia for Knowledge and Innovation, and Mangroves for the Future.