Imagine watching powerlessly as neighbourhoods disappear under water
Kilometres of muddy coast in the province of Demark on the Indonesian island of Java have gradually been swallowed up by the sea over the past 35 years. For example, in the village of Bedono, two neighbourhoods - a total of 200 hectares - have disappeared. The cause: coastal erosion and rising sea levels.
Naturally occurring mangrove forests in the area have been increasingly chopped down to make way for fish and shrimp ponds as well as land clearance for urban development. Even though mangroves play an important role in coastal protection. Large quantities of groundwater are used for controlling the water quality of the ponds, causing sinking of the land. The increasing flooding of houses, agricultural land and roads means local fishermen and fish pond farmers have seen their incomes drop significantly, sometimes by as much as 80%.
There seemed to be no way to stop the erosion and floods. Major investments were made in sea walls and wave barriers, but all these efforts failed. In areas with soft muddy substrate like Demak hard structures only enhance erosion and often collapse. The floods kept creeping further into the villages and taking land by 100 meters every year. People became desperate and made plans to move away having witnessed neighbouring villages being swallowed up by the sea.
Created in partnership with: Deltares