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Spotlights on ‘Building with Nature’ by Netherlands and Indonesia

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

Yesterday, a week-long exchange visit about integrated coastal management by the government of Indonesia to the Netherlands was formally opened by Wim Kuijken, Deltacommissioner of the Netherlands. Both Wim Kuijken and Mr. Eko Rudianto, Director of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of Indonesia highlighted ‘Building with Nature’ as an effective approach to sustainable coastal management.


Wim Kuijken presented how in the Netherlands a change in paradigm has taken place regarding flood protection, from a technocratic infrastructure-based approach, such as the building of dikes, dunes and barriers, towards more integral solutions that work with nature.

As a result of knowledge about future impacts, the Netherlands is now able to connect its short-term decisions with long term water related challenges such as sea level rise and increased river discharge. The Dutch Delta Commissioner explained how the Netherlands now prefers to ‘work with hard engineering solutions if necessary, but with soft solutions when possible’.


He said that soft ‘building with nature’ solutions give more opportunity for planning with multifunctional benefits (such as for biodiversity and recreation) and also provide more flexibility for management adjustments, in line with what is needed to keep our feet dry in the future. Examples of long-term and adaptive flood defense measures in the Netherlands are the Sand Engine, and Room for the River, two major nature-based projects.


Mr. Eko Rudianto, the Director of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of Indonesia, also expressed enthusiasm for the ‘Building with Nature concept’, which is still a very innovative approach in Indonesia. The Ministry is currently, with support from Deltares and Wetlands International, implementing a pilot project at the North coast of Java to restore its strongly eroding coastline through establishment of so-called permeable dams.

Image by Nanang Sujana

These structures (see photo) are inspired by a method used by the Dutch for over a century to reclaim lost land. The permeable dams break the waves and trap sediment thus reclaiming land. Once the land is back, mangroves can recolonise the area and help protect the coastline against erosion after which Indonesia can work on sustainable coastal management.

Image by Nanang Sujana

The erosion, amongst others caused by mangrove deforestation for the construction of fish ponds and subsidence, has already led to the loss of hundreds of meters of land and houses to the sea. The pilot project thus far seems promising as the waves are now clearly much lower inside the grid of permeable dams than outside. And in some cases, pioneering mangrove trees are already testing the ground.

Mr. Rudianto furthermore expressed that through this visit to the Netherlands his delegation hopes to learn more about the Dutch approach to coastal protection. He also expressed that the Ministry wants to explore how to scale up the Building with Nature approach in other parts of Indonesia, in particular in rural areas where many coastal communities live. He gave the example of a village which neighbors the current project site. This village has already lost 1.2 km of land to the sea and many houses are flooded.


Deltares and Wetlands International applauded the initiative of the Ministry to test the innovative ‘Building with Nature’ approach in Indonesia and the close collaboration between the ministry, Deltares, Wetlands International and other partners. They also both expressed high interest in further collaboration and exploration of scaling up this work in Indonesia and beyond.

Over the next days the Indonesian delegation will visit various Building with Nature sites in the Netherlands, including the Zandmotor (the Sand Motor) and the restored salt marshes of the Wadden Sea (the Kwelders) of which photos will be posted soon.