Building with Nature: Water Dialogues

Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia

An interdisciplinary collaboration to conduct a series of Water Dialogues along the coastal city of Semarang and the greater Central Java province. Building on our existing activities in the area, the objective is to generate awareness and an actionable roadmap amongst government stakeholders from relevant sectors. The project is a sub-component of the long-term Building with Nature Indonesia programme by Ecoshape, Wetlands International, the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), and the Ministry of Public Works and Human Settlement (PU), supported by supported by the Dutch Sustainable Water Fund and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).

Land subsidence and sea-level rise are a severe problem for areas on the north coast of Central Java. Along the coastline of Semarang and Demak, land subsidence due to massive groundwater extraction and sea-level rise has been worsening the coastal flooding and coastal erosion, severely hampering economic development due to blocked transportation routes, loss of land for agriculture and aquaculture and costs for continuous repairs of public and private infrastructure and assets. This has also resulted in community displacement to other areas as they lost their jobs and land. A threshold may have been reached where coastal restoration and aquaculture revitalisation measures in Demak may no longer be feasible at the landscape scale unless subsidence is halted.

Stopping groundwater extraction requires active participation of multiple stakeholders. In 2019, Wetlands International Indonesia, in collaboration with Kota Kita, Deltares, and Witteveen+Bos initiated the ‘Water Dialogues’ with funding from the German International Climate Initiative (IKI) and the Netherland Enterprise Agency (

The Water Dialogue project aims to address subsidence on Semarang & Demak’s coastal zones through the formulation of a roadmap with all actors in the wider watershed to reduce groundwater extraction, recharge the aquifer and optimize surface water use and recycling and will explore potential financial public and/or private arrangements for implementation. The main focus is on the mitigation of land subsidence while also exploring the adaptation measures to ongoing subsidence.

The project launched with a preliminary engagement and communication process with the Government of Central Java Province through Dinas PUSDATARU (Pekerjaan Umum Sumberdaya Air dan Tata Ruang) as the main partner. The project has also received support from the Provincial Government of Central Java as land subsidence has become a severe issue requiring prompt actions. A series of stakeholder dialogues with thematic discussion is currently underway in 2020 as part of the effort in developing the Land Subsidence Mitigation Roadmap for Central Java Province, particularly Semarang and Demak.