Building with Nature programme in Indonesia wins Dutch engineering award

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The programme in Northern Java to stop coastal erosion through Building with Nature has won the annual award yesterday for innovative engineering solutions in the Netherlands. The programme was submitted by Witteveen+Bos, because the programme uses low cost techniques with high impact for people and nature. On behalf of the project, dr. ir. Rob Nieuwkamer from Witteveen+Bos, received the award, in the presence of Princess Beatrix and Princess Mabel and many prominent people from the engineering world.

The award (called the Vernufteling 2016) gives a wonderful boost to the Building with Nature Indonesia consortium, which is currently carrying out this pilot project in the Demak district in Northern Java.

Bringing coastal erosion to a halt

This Building with Nature initiative in Indonesia enhances coastal resilience for residents by avoiding further coastal flooding and erosion. The solution is low-tech, but high concept: 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 brings the massive coastal erosion to a halt and stimulates the natural re-growth of the mangrove greenbelt. The mangrove forest should take over the role of the dams and attenuate the waves and keep the sediment in place. In addition, the soft solution of coastal protection by mangroves brings back the ecological value of the area.

More than dams

The Building with Nature project not only constructs permeable dams, but also provides residents with a long term perspective for sustainable economic development through sustainable aquaculture. The local population is closely involved in the construction and maintenance of the dams and the aquaculture ponds. The partners further aim for replication and scaling up of the Building with Mangroves approach to other rural and urban areas in Indonesia, including through capacity building, knowledge exchange and embedding in policies and planning.

Rob Nieuwkamer, project lead from Witteveen+Bos is pleased that a large number of people voted for this programme: “This is a great award to receive. While the project is low-tech, the jury has recognised that thorough knowledge is required about local and ecological circumstances. The private public partnership of this programme is vital for realising a lasting solution. It involves much more than just those dams.”

The Consortium

Building with Nature Indonesia programme 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.

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