Building with Nature project in Central Java inspires students, media and governments

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Over the past 3 months, the Building with Nature project site in Demak District has been visited by several universities, media and government officials. The project consortium and communities encourage such visits to inspire visitors on the Building with Nature approach. As such it supports upscaling in other muddy coastlines at risk from coastal erosion, and in other settings such as sandy shores, rivers, ports and cities, combining green and grey solutions alongside other measures for risk reduction.

Media visits

In July, Jakarta Post visited several villages in Demak that are suffering from coastal erosion and land subsidence. In some places coastal erosion has inundated the land by 3km, as a result of removal of mangrove trees that serve as the beach’s natural protection against sea waves, and of groundwater extraction and land reclamation in the neighboring city of Semarang. Dr. Abdul Muhari from the ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (KKP), the lead government partner in the project, joined the media team. A series of three articles appeared in Jakarta Post describing the challenges experienced by the communities and perspectives on the Building with Nature measures to improve their safety and livelihoods: The Sinking villages – sea water creeps into houses in central Java; Robbing Demak to pay Semarang. Flood controls make erosion worse; Adopted yet ignored: hybrid structure offers hope for sinking villages.

In September, a film crew commissioned by the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA) filmed the project as an example of participatory planning and working together on coastal protection, which resulted in a short video which was used for the launch of the Centre’s Year of Action to Accelerate Adaptation. The joint ambition is to link Building with Nature in Asia to the GCA’s Action Tracks to mobilize national, local, and private sector leadership for nature-based solutions.

International students

In October, the project team welcomed civil engineering and spatial planning students and lecturers from the USA and the Netherlands. They were interested in the Building with Nature approach to prevent and reduce coastal erosion, and specifically how to create the right conditions for mangroves to grow back naturally in the appropriate locations. Students took a close look at the construction and effectiveness of permeable structures for capturing sediment. They also met with community groups which jointly plan and carry out the coastal rehabilitation activities, including the construction of the structures and conversion of shrimp farms for mangrove restoration. Communities have also tested innovative mixed mangrove aquaculture techniques which are more sustainable and have more than tripled their shrimp yields and doubled their margins, and are now ready for wider uptake by farmers.

Government to government

The series of visits was concluded by the Government of Timor Leste together with UNDP, through the project “Building Shoreline Resilience of Timor Leste to Protect Communities and Their Livelihoods”. They came to enhance their understanding of coastal restoration activities through Building with Nature and to continue to exchange knowledge in the future. The local government of Demak Regency and the Assistant Deputy II of the Indonesian Maritime and Investment Coordinating Ministry joined the visit.

These visits give local communities a major boost in continuing to carrying out coastal restoration activities, being seen as pioneers and agents of change in achieving coastal resilience and improved livelihoods.

By Yus Rusila Noor

Building with Nature Indonesia is a programme by EcoShape, Wetlands International, the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), and the Ministry of Public Works and Housing (PU), supported by supported by the Dutch Sustainable Water Fund and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). For more information on the project and other project partners: www.Indonesia.buildingwithnature.nl

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