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First ‘permeable structures’ in place to protect eroding coastlines in Java

13-Oct-2013

By Etwin Kuslati, Wetlands International Indonesia
 

What do you do when your house is slowly being swallowed by the sea???

This is the question that Wetlands International was asked to advise on by the community of Timbul Sloko Village, on the North coast of Central Java, Indonesia.

 

3 Structures covering a total area of approximately 0,2km2 are currently under construction in 3 strategic locations in the village. The structure consists of wooden poles hammered down the muddy surface and then filled with brushwood. Photo by Wetlands International


For the past decade the people of Timbul Sloko Village have witnessed the devastating impact of converting the mangroves into fish ponds. The mangroves used to protect their village from the sea, but the loss of mangroves, combined with subsidence (sinking of soil) and sea level rise is now causing severe coastal erosion as well as flooding of the village. Often hard structures like wave breakers are put in place for coastal protection, but these are known to make the situation worse in muddy (former) mangrove coasts. 

 

Permeable structures?

For the past decade they have witnessed the devastating impact of converting the mangroves into fish ponds. The mangroves used to protect their village from the sea, but the loss of mangroves, combined with subsidence (sinking of soil) and sea level rise is now causing severe coastal erosion as well as flooding of the village. Often hard structures like wave breakers are put in place for coastal protection, but these are known to make the situation worse in muddy (former) mangrove coasts.


Wetlands International and its partners have come up with an alternative solution to the traditional approach of placing hard structures as protection against coastal erosion. Instead, we are building ‘permeable structures’ to mimic the function of the root system of a mangrove forest.

 

The permeable structures are designed to capture sediment in the same way a natural mangrove root system would. Illustration by Joost Fluitsma.

 

The first structures have been placed mid September. These permeable structures weaken the power of the waves and at the same time let mud pass through so that the land can build up again.
 

Technique succesfully applied in the Netherlands 

We maintain these structures until enough land is reclaimed for the mangroves to naturally re-colonize the area. This technique has been applied successfully in salt marshes in the Netherlands for centuries. To realize these smart engineering techniques, we collaborate with Deltares (an institute for applied research in the field of water, subsurface and infrastructure) and the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.
 

Multiple benefits for the community

We work together with the local communities in building this structure. Not only the men are involved, but also local women who prepare the brushwood materials. Once the mangroves are restored, they can offer multiple benefits again to the community. Not only do they protect them from the sea, they also store carbon and form resources for sustainable fisheries.

 

 

Men building permeable structures in Java, Indonesia. Photo by Wetlands International

 

Read more about Mangroves for coastal resilience

You can also download our brochure on Building with Nature for Coastal Resilience 

Contact person: Femke Tonneijck, project manager Mangrove Capital 

 

Women collecting brushwood for the permeable structures in Java. Photo by Wetlands International
 

Press contact

Press can contact:

Ms. Ytha Kempkes
Communications and Advocacy Manager
Tel. +31 (0)318 660933
Email: ytha.kempkes@wetlands.org

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