The Giant Sea Wall: A False Solution to Climate Crisis and Ecological Bankruptcy in Java

JAKARTA (KM)- This huge project, recently revived iin a national seminar directed by the Minister of Defense, Prabowo Subianto, is a flawed response to the frequent flooding in North Java’s industrial and economic zones.


Environmental watchdog WALHI condemns this project as a fundamental error in developmental thinking. The construction of this sea wall, which is essentially a large-scale land reclamation effort, fails to address the root causes of Java’s ecological destruction, rooted in the extensive exploitation of natural resources for extractive industries on land and in coastal, marine, and small island areas.


Java’s ecological support system has been in decline since colonial times, as detailed in WALHI’s 2012 publication, “Java Collapse.”


The northern coastal regions of Java, from Banten to East Java, bear the burden of large-scale industrial licenses, resulting in rapid land subsidence. To stop this subsidence, the government should reevaluate and revoke these industrial permits rather than constructing a giant sea wall, which would only extend the ecological damage from land to sea.


Crisis in North Java’s waters


The sea wall project will devastate North Java’s marine areas, crucial for the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of traditional fishermen. The project requires vast amounts of sea sand; for instance, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries estimated a need for approximately 388.2 million cubic meters of sea sand for Jakarta Bay’s reclamation alone in 2021.


Such ambitious construction will expedite the extinction of marine biodiversity in North Java waters. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently declared the Javanese ray (Urolophus Javanicus) extinct, primarily due to overfishing and ecosystem destruction from industrial activities. This project will further threaten other species in Java’s marine waters, which are already in a worrying state of being fully or over-exploited.

Destroying fisheries economy


A 2016 study by the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries on the socio-economic impact of Jakarta Bay’s reclamation highlights the potential economic losses for fishermen and other stakeholders in North Java’s fishing sector. The loss of fishing areas, mangroves, and the displacement of fishermen due to this project would be massive.


Mangroves: a solution


Contrary to government claims, the sea wall will not mitigate the climate crisis in North Java’s coast. It will accelerate the destruction of mangrove ecosystems, vital for climate adaptation and mitigation. The irony is stark, considering Indonesia’s global campaigning as a mangrove center and its leadership in the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC).


Displacing fishermen

In Jakarta, the ongoing sea wall construction has threatened the livelihoods of approximately 24,000 fishermen. The government’s response – retraining fishermen for new jobs – poses a risk of eradicating their fishing identity.


In summary, the construction of the giant sea wall is a misguided, harmful response to ecological and social challenges in Java.


The government must prioritize Java’s social and ecological restoration, both on land and in its waters, as a primary development agenda. Rejecting this project is not just a choice but an imperative for the ecological and social health of Java and its people.


Source: Editorial KBA

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