Building with Nature Indonesia

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Case study

Building with Nature is a comprehensive engineering approach that seeks to enhance the use of natural ecological processes to achieve efficient and sustainable hydraulic infrastructural designs. It strives for a flexible integration of land in water and water in land using interactions and materials present in nature. In the Netherlands, EcoShape members, including Wetlands International, have achieved this through development of inspiring concepts and pilots, design guidelines and business cases. The approach is now being used in the Netherlands on a large scale for managing its extensive coastal and river works. Wetlands International is managing the first large-scale international pilot project in Demak, Central Java, Indonesia: “Building with Nature Indonesia: Reaching scale for coastal Resilience”

Reaching scale for coastal resilience

The initiative “Building with Nature Indonesia” aims to build stable coastlines with reduced erosion risk through a unique integration of mangrove restoration, small scale hard-engineering and sustainable land use. In doing so we enhance coastal security for 70.000 vulnerable people by avoiding further coastal flooding and erosion in Central Java and provide them with a long term perspective for sustainable economic development.

Strongly eroded coastline

30 Million people suffer from coastal flooding and erosion hazards in Northern Java, affecting 3000 villages. The problems largely result from the removal of mangrove belts for aquaculture development, unsustainable coastal infrastructure, and groundwater extraction. In some places more than 3 km of land have already been taken by the sea and entire villages have been swallowed. Many people experience a major loss in income, reaching up to 60-80% in some villages. Also the agri- and aquaculture sectors, key economic engines in Indonesia, suffer multi-billion losses.


Large scale pilot in Demak region, Central Java

The five-year programme (2015-2020) focuses on the shoreline in Demak where sea level rise is projected to cause flooding 6km inland by 2100, inundating 14,700 hectares affecting over 70,000 people and the loss of 6000 hectares of aquaculture ponds.

Technical measures include the construction of permeable dams made of brushwood that capture sediment and help to establish a healthy sediment balance. Once the near shore bed level has sufficiently risen, mangroves will regenerate naturally developing a natural water defense protecting the hinterland against flooding and further erosion.

By putting in place a model for sustainable land-use we aim to address the root causes to the erosion problems. As part of this various sustainable livelihoods activities will be initiated such as sustainable aquaculture. The measures will be governed under community bylaws and funding mechanisms and will be rooted in community development plans and integral government master planning for sustainable development.


Knowledge and upscaling

The partners aim for replication and scaling up of the Building with Mangroves approach to other rural and urban areas in Indonesia and other vulnerable muddy coastlines in the world, including through capacity building, knowledge exchange and embedding in policies and planning.

A targeted outreach campaign along with national policy dialogue contributes to the integration of the approach in the Indonesian water sector, ensuring replication in urban and rural areas.

Public-private partnership

The initiative is the leading international case of the “Building with Nature Innovation program” and is strongly supported by the Indonesian government and local communities. The Building with Nature public-private partnership aims to promote sustainable coastal engineering approaches that make use of the natural protection provided by ecosystems like mangroves, and salt marsh habitats. It represents the transition of traditional infrastructure designs that typically fight against nature, towards solutions that work with and alongside nature, which are often more cost-effective, while bringing more prosperity to the local economy such as through enhanced fisheries and carbon storage.


  • Vernufteling award, 2016: a Dutch annual award for innovative engineering solutions in the Netherlands.
  • Flood & Coast Excellence Award 2020: annual award that celebrates projects that set the standard for how to manage flood and coastal risk in the future in response to the climate and ecological emergency.


Building with Nature Indonesia is a programme by Wetlands International, Ecoshape, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), Ministry of Public Work and Housing (PU), Witteveen + Bos, Deltares, TU Delft, Wageningen University & Research, UNESCO-IHE, Blue Forests, Kota Kita, Von Liebermanthe Diponegoro University, and local communities


The Dutch Sustainable Water Fund on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) as part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI), Waterloo Foundation, Otter Foundation, Top Consortia for Knowledge and Innovation, and Mangroves for the Future, and with contributions by all partners.



All reports, newsletters, news and blogs about Building with Nature Indonesia can be found on the website:

Read more about our scaling up initiative Building with Nature Asia


Documentary: Building with Nature Indonesia

Animation: restoring eroded coast Java by Building with Nature

Project partners are committed to drive the current Building with Nature innovation trajectory, by demonstrating the approach in a case study site in Demak. Successful implementation requires in-depth system understanding, extensive stakeholder engagement, and adaptive management on the basis of monitoring and evaluation. We stimulate and support upscaling of the approach by disseminating knowledge, lessons learned and implementation guidance. Stakeholders interested to replicate our approach are strongly recommended to adhere to this guidance and bear full responsibility for the success and sustainability of the approach.