Should 11.4 million EUR of Dutch Aid be Redirected as the Current Project contributes to Poverty and Environmental Degradation in the Bay of Jakarta?

By the end of this year, the Dutch government will have spent 11.4 million EUR in aid on a  project that does not adhere to the Dutch standard of Official Development Aid (ODA) and violates the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by destroying the livelihoods of local fisher communities as well as the environment. 

As a consequence of land subsidence paired with rising sea levels, major parts of Jakarta and its 10 million inhabitants are threatened to be swallowed by the ocean. The ‘National Capital Integrated Coastal Development’ (NCICD), funded by the Dutch government, is building a sea wall as well as a number of artificial islands in the Bay of Jakarta. This project is projected to render the water in the bay toxic, cut the local fisherman off the coast destroying their livelihoods as well as a protected mangrove site without addressing the core issue of land subsidence. Tackling groundwater extraction in the city would be a better investment of Dutch ODA. The Dutch government and the Committee on ‘Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation’ in particular can help alleviate poverty instead of perpetuating it and fight the main cause of land subsidence instead of only the symptom of flooding. 

The NCICD project violates Dutch ODA Policy and SDGs

Poverty Reduction: As part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the Dutch policy for development aid, the effort of poverty reduction is imperative. The NCICD will affect the low-income group of local fishers disproportionately. The erection of a sea wall and artificial islands means a loss in fish populations as well as access to the ocean. The hitherto development in the bay has already resulted in a loss of daily income by fishermen from 300.000 IDR (20 EUR) to 50.000 IDR (3 EUR). 

Inclusive Growth: In a memorandum to the OECD about its development policy, the Dutch government states to play a leading role in an international coalition to “leave no one behind” and promote inclusive growth. Indonesian NGOs state that local fishermen will have to switch to highly low-paid jobs in the trash and informal laundry industries. In this way, the NCICD would further perpetuate Jakarta’s rising inequality. 

Women’s Rights: women’s rights are being violated as the negative effects of land reclamation will have a disproportionately big impact on females. Gender roles make women responsible for work outside the fishing industry which will increase in importance adding pressure and additional work hours. 

Human Rights: NCICD’s impact on the livelihood of fishermen is a violation of the human right to work for one’s livelihood stated in the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 

Stakeholder Involvement: The NCICD was drafted between Dutch and Indonesian government officials as well as respective actors from the private sector, excluding local fisher communities. Informational meetings provided only offer to react to plans that are already decided. Many communities have not been consulted or had to go through great lengths. The fisherfolk in Miara Angke reports that it was difficult to attend consultation meetings at the University of Indonesia due to far distances and loss of working hours. 

Environment: The NCICD also has adverse effects on the environment. As the land reclamations enclose the Bay and disconnect from the ocean, rivers need to be made much cleaner as well as waste-disposal more efficient or the Bay will turn highly toxic. The sand extraction necessary for the land reclamation also affects Kepulauan Seribu, a protected marine park close to the bay as well as a protected mangrove site. 

Proposed Solutions within the Project do not Resolve the Issues

The proposition of relocating fishing communities is highly problematic. The NCICD does neither include concrete funding solutions nor sides that would allow for the communities to continue in their profession. Relocation leads to the destruction of social structures and communal traditions by unrooting communities from their traditional localities. Suggestions regarding fish farming in the retention lake are not feasible due to the aforementioned increase in toxification. Dutch private sector actors noted that the new islands would function as a residence for high and middle-class families and provide service jobs to the former fishermen. This employment as low-paid workers will lead to increased inequality. 

Investment in Jakarta’s Water System will Stop Sinking and Alleviate Poverty 

 As of now, 65 percent of water consumption in Jakarta is supplied through groundwater extraction. This praxis is hollowing out the soil underneath the city causing it to sink. Many coastal cities face the issue of land subsidence but have managed to stop it. The cases of Bangkok and Tokyo indicate that if groundwater extraction would be tackled, land subsidence could be expected to stop in 6 years. Stopping the city to sink would reduce the threat of rising sea levels. Sea levels will still be rising due to climate change, but the relative impact on flooding threats is larger for stopping the sinking. This investment in the water system will have to be coordinated with the Dutch and Indonesian private sector but should be led by governmental authorities particularly the Committee on ‘Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation’ to ensure that social change does not fall prey to profit maximization. Smooth transition of funding would be recommended to prevent negative side effects on workers and the environment. 

Redirecting Dutch Aid to Jakarta’s Water System is Impactful and Urgent

As climate change is accelerating and already impacting the livelihood of the most vulnerable, action and therefore aid is needed now more than ever. Dutch aid should be spent to combat the root cause of land subsidence and not an approach that perpetuates the inequalities and violence against these vulnerable communities such as the fisherfolk. When directed towards the improvement of Jakarta’s water system, Dutch aid could make a tangible difference! 

Full BOTHends Report on Dutch involvement in the NCICD and its Impact:

Picture used: Kuiper.

By Alexander Pechmann

Author: GEN