Straight to content

First Year of Building with Nature to restore coast Central Java implemented

Published on:
  • Coastal resilience
  • Coastal wetland conservation
  • Integrated delta management

Today, it is a year ago that Dutch and Indonesian partners began the restoration of the severely eroding coast in Demak and Semarang in Northern Java through Building with Nature methods, an approach that is rapidly gaining in popularity. The first results show that some areas are starting to recover as a result of the placement of sediment-permeable dams in October and November 2015.

The project will run till 2020. The first year of implementation of the restoration activities is marked by meetings of the Steering Committee, and the Technical Group in Semarang from 1 to 2 March 2016. The meeting is attended by representatives from the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, University Diponegoro, Central Java Provincial and Demak District Governments and several Dutch organizations under the Ecoshape Consortium.

In his opening remarks, Ir. Rido Miduk Sugandi Batubara, Director of Coastal Management, Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries stated: “The Building with Nature program in Demak and Semarang is a collaborative effort to restore the coastal area of Northern Central Java, using the power of nature. Through a unique integration of coastal and mangrove restoration, small sale engineering and sustainable land use we can improve livelihoods in program areas.” 

Site assessments

During this first year, the project has been able to assess the condition of the coastline and the possible Building with Nature approach for 8 villages, which is always site-specific and requires a thorough understanding. In the most heavily eroded parts of the Demak coastline, this program is building permeable dams to attenuate the waves and trap the sediment. This reverses the massive erosion and stimulates the natural re-growth of the mangrove greenbelt.

The program also has the intention to address the complex issue such as land subsidence as a result of extraction of ground water by industries, in particular at the rapidly eroding coast in the South, bordering the city of Semarang.

Succesful sedimentation and new mangrove seedlings behind first permeable dams

Significant construction work of permeable dams was done last October and November, and the first measurements show 45 centimeters of sedimentation. Behind one of the dams the mangrove seedlings are already emerging everywhere. If the dam structure stays in place there can be a small forest in that area within a year or two. The mangrove forest should then take over the role of the dams and attenuate the waves and keep the sediment in place.

The program also organised a Coastal Field School for communities which are part of project implementation, as well as a training on sustainable aquaculture management, organised by Blue Forest, through which villagers are helped to start sustainable aquaculture ponds. The villagers have shown a lot of excitement to participate in this economic development programme which will be facilitated by Wetlands International through the Bio-Rights mechanism.

Nyoman Suryadiputra, Director Wetlands International Indonesia, who also represents the Advisory Board added that, “The colonization of mangroves this early in the project is very promising. I look forward to the work to come in the next year in which we continue to construct permeable dams, but also start with capacity building of the Indonesian water sector, and develop implementation guidance so that our approach can be replicated in other areas.” 


The meeting also serves to discuss challenges of the programme and how to address these in the coming years. One challenge is to halt the mangrove cutting for aquaculture ponds which is still going on, including in areas that have been part of the restoration activities last year.

A major concern is that many of community group members have sold their land and that there are serious plans for industrial development at the eroded coast where the project is aiming to restore the coastline.

A complex issue is also that we need to find ways to subsidence of the land as a result of extraction of ground water by industries, in particular at the rapidly eroding coast in the south, bordering the city of Semarang.

“This Steering committe and Technical group will document the successes ad lessons learned that have been obtained, so they can be applied in several other locations, while more effort and closer cooperation of all Partners can be put together to improve the outcome”, emphasized Dr. Hendra Yusran Siry, Head of Sub-Directorate of Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change, Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

About the project

The northern coast of Central Java, especially in the area of ​​Semarang and Demak has been eroded severely during the last two decades. A large number of coastal areas have been lost and are inundated by sea water; several hamlets had to be evacuated and residents have moved to other villages. Other houses needed to be routinely elevated due to the tidal floods.

The aquaculture sector has already greatly shrunk as a result of salt water intrusion far inland. Villages in Demak that have suffered such damage include Timbulsloko, Bedono and Sriwulan villages. In the long term, over 30 million people in Java face the risk of losing their houses, roads, and arable land.

Partners under this Building with Nature initiative aim to enhance coastal resilience for 70,000 vulnerable people in Central Java by avoiding further coastal flooding and erosion and by providing them with a long term perspective for sustainable economic development. We do this through a unique integration of mangrove restoration, small scale engineering and sustainable land use.

The partners further 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 and knowledge exchange. The project also supports a coherent institutional framework for coastal management, aiming for embedding of the Building with Nature concept and sustainable aquaculture in community, district and province level policies and plans.

The BwN program is a cooperation between the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (KKP) and Ministry of Public Work and Human Settlement (PUPR) on behalf of the Government of Indonesia and the Ecoshape Consortium. Wetlands International coordinates the initiative in partnership with consultancy agency Witteveen + Bos, knowledge institutes Deltares, Blue Forest,  Wageningen University & Research CentreIMARES and UNESCO-IHE, and the Diponegoro University, and Local Government of Central Java Province and Demak District.

For further information, please contact:

Yus Rusila Noor, Programme Manager Resilience Projects, Wetlands International Indonesia
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

Hendra Yusran Siri, PhD, Head of Sub-Directorate of Disaster Mitigation, Climate Change Adaptation, Ministry of Marine affairs and fisheries
Email: [email protected]

Netherlands: [email protected]; tel: +31 318 660957

Building with Nature Indonesia, Design & Engineering Plan

Financial support:

The initiative “Building with Nature Indonesia – Securing eroding Delta Coastlines” the support of The Government of the Republic of Indonesia, The Dutch Sustainable Water Fund, Waterloo Foundation, Otter Foundation, Top Dutch Water Sector Innovation Program and Mangroves for the Future