The giant sea wall is a false solution to the climate crisis and accelerates the ecological degradation of the land and waters of Java Island.
The proposal for a giant sea wall on the North Coast of Java Island, as discussed in a national seminar organized by the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs and directed by the Minister of Defense, Prabowo Subianto, has been met with criticism from environmental organizations such as WALHI (Forum for the Environment). According to WALHI, this proposal is viewed as a false solution to the climate and ecological crisis and raises concerns about the potential negative impacts on the environment and local communities.
Critics argue that building a giant sea wall may exacerbate ecological degradation and social issues rather than addressing the root causes of climate change.
Also present at the seminar, a number of members of Advanced Indonesia cabinet ministers. They are Minister of Trade Zulkifli Hasan, Maritime and Fisheries Minister Sakti Wahyu Trenggono, Minister of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning/National Land Agency Hadi Tjahjanto, Minister of Home Affairs Tito Karnavian, Director General of Water Resources Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing of Republic of Indonesia, Bob Arthur Lombogia, as well as officials representing the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN).
The Coordinating Minister for the Economy argued that the giant sea wall project was urgently needed because the North Java region, which includes five growth areas, 70 industrial areas, five special economic areas and five growth center areas, was often disturbed by tidal floods.
According to WALHI, this proposed sea wall project, involving reclamation of the sea, is considered a development misunderstanding and is unlikely to address the root causes of ecological destruction on Java Island.
Parid Ridwanuddin, WALHI’s National Executive Coastal and Marine Campaign Manager, expressed concerns that the project may primarily benefit extractive industries and fail to provide a sustainable solution to the region’s ecological challenges.
“WALHI views that the government’s plan to build a sea wall by reclaiming the sea is a development misunderstanding. This project will not address the root of the problem of the ecological destruction of the island of Java which has been exploited for the benefit of extractive industries both on land and on the coast, sea and small islands,” said Parid Ridwanuddin, WALHI National Executive Coastal and Marine Campaign Manager, January 11, 2024.
The book “Java Collapse” published by WALHI in 2012 highlights the social-ecological destruction and bankruptcy of Java Island. It traces this degradation to the historical exploitation of natural resources on the island, spanning from the colonial era to the post-reformation era. According to the book, this extended period of resource exploitation has led to the destruction of the ecological carrying capacity of Java Island.
The concept of ecological carrying capacity refers to the maximum population that an environment can support sustainably without degrading its natural resources. When human activities surpass the capacity of an ecosystem to regenerate and maintain its balance, it can result in ecological degradation and a loss of biodiversity.
In the case of Java Island, the book likely argues that overexploitation, deforestation, industrial activities, and other forms of resource depletion have collectively contributed to the island’s ecological decline. The proposed giant sea wall, as criticized by WALHI, is seen as a potential continuation of misguided development practices that may not effectively address the root causes of ecological challenges on Java Island.
The northern coastal regions, stretching from Banten to East Java, have already experienced significant environmental issues, particularly large-scale industrial permits contributing to rapid land subsidence.
Instead of building a giant sea wall, a more effective solution would be to evaluate and potentially revoke various large industrial permits along the north coast of Java. The concern is that the sea wall project may exacerbate social and ecological degradation, spreading destruction from the mainland to the coast, sea, and small islands.
This perspective emphasizes the importance of addressing the root causes of environmental challenges, such as unsustainable industrial practices and overexploitation of natural resources, rather than implementing large-scale infrastructure projects that may have unintended consequences.
Crisis in the waters of north of Java
The construction of a giant sea wall, which would require a significant amount of sea sand, could lead to the destruction of the waters or sea along the northern coast of Java Island. This, in turn, poses a threat to the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of traditional fishermen who depend on these waters for their fishing activities.
The reference to the Jakarta Bay reclamation project in 2021, which estimated the need for a large volume of sea sand, highlights the potential environmental impact associated with such projects.
In 2021, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (KKP) estimated the need for sea sand for the Jakarta Bay reclamation project at 388,200,000 cubic meters.
The extraction of sea sand for reclamation purposes has been a subject of environmental and social concerns, including habitat disruption, sedimentation, and effects on marine ecosystems.
The construction of a giant sea wall, given the need for sea sand, could contribute to the environmental degradation of the sea and negatively impact the traditional fishing communities along the northern coast of Java Island.
The ambition to build a giant sea wall will accelerate the extinction of biodiversity in the waters of the northern island of Java. Not long ago, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at the COP28 event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), 11 December 2023 declared the species of Javan Stingray or Urolophus Javanicus extinct. This species is known to have a habitat in the waters north of Java, especially in Jakarta Bay.
As stated by experts, this extinction was caused by two things, namely over-exploited fishing and the destruction of coastal and marine ecosystems due to industrial activities. In the long term, the ambition to build a giant sea wall will accelerate the extinction of other flora and fauna species in the waters of Java Island.
In general, fishery resources in the waters of Java Island are in an alarming situation. Based on the Decree of the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the Republic of Indonesia Number 19 of 2022 concerning Potential Estimation.
The level of utilization of fish resources in Indonesian fisheries management areas has been fully exploited at 67 percent, and over exploited at 22 percent.
In other words, with this data, in general the waters north of Java need to be restored because they have been exploited endlessly. However, the construction of a giant sea wall will actually increasingly threaten fish stocks as a source of community protein.
Destroying the community’s economy
In 2016, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries through the Center for Maritime and Fisheries Socio-Economic Research, the Maritime and Fisheries Research and Development Agency, published a study on the impact of the C and D Island reclamation project in Jakarta Bay with the title Socio-Economic Impact and Policy Recommendations for Bay Reclamation Jakarta.
Although this study has not calculated the impact of losses and economic loss on communities in the fisheries sector in other places on the north coast of Java, we can imagine the losses being equal or greater.
The Socio-Economic Impact Document and Jakarta Bay Reclamation Policy Recommendations document notes the following:
- Every loss of 1 ha of water area causes economic losses received by fishermen of IDR 26,899,369 per person per year. The total loss to fishermen due to the reduction in water area in Jakarta Bay is IDR 137,536,474,541 per year. This value assumes that fishermen can still operate in the waters above Jakarta Bay which are not experiencing landfill. If fishing activities stop completely, the value of economic losses received by fishermen will reach Rp. 101,312,544 per person per year with a total value of Rp. 766. 632.021.205. This value was obtained based on economic valuation calculations using the effect on production technique which calculates the amount of consumer surplus from fishing activities.
- Each green mussel cultivation business unit affected by reclamation results in losses to the cultivator of IDR 85,599,135 per unit per year. The number of green kerrang cultivation units was recorded at 1,155 units, so the total loss reached IDR 98,867,000,590 per year. This value was obtained based on economic valuation calculations using the effect on production technique which calculates the amount of consumer surplus from green mussel cultivation activities
- Every 1 ha of pond area affected by reclamation results in a loss of IDR 27,992,943 per year. The area of fishing ponds in Jakarta Bay was recorded at 487 ha, causing a total loss of IDR 13,632,563,241 per year. The value is obtained based on economic valuation calculations using the residual rent technique, which is the net economic benefit value with projections for the next 10 years and an interest rate of 5%.
- Each fishery trader has a potential loss of Rp. 76,488,078 per year or Rp. 6,374,007 per month. The number of traders recorded based on field identification results was 1,561 people, so the total loss value was IDR. 119,397,890,393 / year. Value losses will occur if fisheries traders are no longer able to continue their business because there is no supply of fish from fishermen. This value is calculated based on the net benefit value with a projection for the next 10 years and an interest rate of 5%.
- Each fishery product processor has a potential loss of IDR. 97,797,274,- per year or Rp. 8,149,773 per month. Statistically, the number of processors is recorded at 472 people, so that a potential loss of IDR can be obtained. 46,160,313,328,- per year. This value is obtained from the average value of net economic benefits projected for the next 10 years with an interest rate of 5%.
Based on the calculations above, the giant sea wall project will expand the losses and economic loss felt by fishermen and other fisheries actors on the north coast of Java.
The government claims that this project is a climate crisis mitigation scenario on the north coast of Java. However, in fact, the giant sea wall project will not be able to answer the climate crisis faced by coastal communities.
This project will accelerate the destruction of the mangrove ecosystem that has been occurring on the north coast of Java. For example, due to the very heavy industrial load on the north coast of Central Java, the area of mangroves continues to decline.
In 2010, mangroves covered an area of 1,784,850 hectares. In 2021, it experienced a very significant loss, where the area was only recorded at 10,738.62 hectares. Likewise on the coast of Jakarta. Currently, the mangrove area is recorded as no more than 25 hectares. In fact, before the reclamation project, its area was recorded at more than a thousand hectares.
This loss of mangroves is ironic in the midst of the Indonesian government’s intensive international campaign and diplomacy to make Indonesia the world’s mangrove center as an effort to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis. Even more ironic, at the COP28 event, Indonesia was chosen as Co-Chair of the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC). This alliance consists of 34 countries that are considered committed to mangrove restoration and conservation.
This project is a false solution to the climate crisis because it conflicts with efforts to restore mangrove ecosystems as an important part of efforts to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis.
In Jakarta, the construction of a sea wall which is still ongoing today has threatened the survival of fishermen living on the north coast of Jakarta. Based on the results of the risk analysis of the NCICD phase A development carried out by the PUPR Ministry, around 24,000 fishermen in North Jakarta are threatened with eviction.
These evictions inevitably lead to the potential loss of the community’s livelihood as fishermen, because they have to be relocated to other areas where access is far from the sea and ships.
Instead of protecting fishermen’s identities by maintaining fishermen’s accessibility to the sea, the government is planning training to open new job opportunities for fishermen affected by eviction. In this way, the threat of loss of fishermen’s identity due to the NCID development in Jakarta Bay is even greater.
Once again, the construction of a giant sea wall does not address the substantial problems faced by society. In Central Java, there has been the construction of the Semarang Demak Sea Embankment (TTLSD) toll road which still leaves many problems, starting from the relocation of a mangrove ecosystem area of approximately 40 hectares, limiting the fishing area of traditional fishermen, and other social problems.
There is no other choice for the government, apart from stopping the plan to build a giant sea wall or giant sea wall, making the social and ecological restoration of the island of Java, both land and sea, the main agenda in the development plan.