Coastal ecosystems have endured many negative impacts of infrastructural development like roads, harbours and sea walls. Their construction has done its share of damage and influenced people’s livelihoods. Since the tsunami in 2004, a large number of development organisations have been investing in infrastructural development without realizing the impacts on ecosystems, and thus indirectly on livelihoods.
WWF Indonesia and Wetlands International Indonesia Programme carried out an impact assessment to estimate the potential destruction caused by ongoing infrastructural development, and investments along the Aceh coastline. This assessment was done in July - September 2007. The main objectives were to make an inventory of environmental impacts and - based on its outcomes - set up guidelines and advice policy makers in the Aceh province.
Results of the assessment
The research showed several important impacts of infrastructural development on coastal ecosystems. The most important was a water quality change in the surroundings of coastal areas. These water quality changes were observed close to major infrastructural development interventions. Construction materials contain toxic chemicals. Accumulation of these toxins can have deadly effects on aquatic ecosystems and human life, whereas lower concentrations of these chemicals can generate genetic mutation.
A second important negative impact was a change in coastal ecosystem quality. The assessment showed that following ecosystem changes taking place:
- Mangrove forest destruction caused by tree cutting for industrial use and conversion of mangrove forests for other land uses.
- Removal of natural coastal defence systems due to human induced coastal abrasion
- Human health problems caused by unsafe human waste disposal
Based on evidence of negative impacts of large scale infrastructural development projects, the assessment formulated a series of recommendations to policy makers of Aceh:
- To minimize environmental coastal damages, a strategic and action plan must be designed
- To immediately detect negative impacts of infrastructural development projects, a monitoring and screening system needs to be developed
- Coastal land use plans need to be developed and implemented
- A green investment system for coastal development needs to be put in place
- There is a need to ensure community based management approaches in order to gain community support in sustainable management of natural resources
De data collected has been compiled in a publication, which gives an overview of the effects of infrastructure development on the living environment of Aceh’s coastal areas and provides practical recommendations for the designing of systems and strategies. These will be based on sustainability principles in coastal area management. Want to read more? Download the report.
Simultaneously to the impact assessment on infrastructural coastal development, Wetlands International – Indonesia Programme has been facilitating policy dialogues between relevant stakeholders, such as the Provincial Government and agencies involved in reconstruction planning and programs (i.e. USAID & Sea Defence Consultants). These dialogues aim to advocate for prevention of damaging reconstruction activities and identification and promotion of alternative, sustainable development options.
The policy & advocacy work is focusing on following infrastructural development:
- West Coast road (wetlands along West Coast potentially affected by USAID West Coast Road Project)
- Pusong Bay reservoir development; whereby Pusong Bay ecosystems will be converted into a large reservoir by 2009, as part of flood management strategy of Lhokseumawe Municipality
- Harbor development in Teluk Belukar, Nias island. This Lagoon has an unique mangrove biodiversity value which will be affected through the development of a fishing harbour, a fishing base complex and fish auction market facility
These policy dialogues aim to create win-win situations. Regarding the Pusong Bay, the BRR, Green Coast Team and Sea Defense Consultant have agreed to seek alternatives on gate and dam design, which will allow tidal system to enter and exit the ponds.