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DOI: 10.2478/v10104-011-0050-3
Vol. 11
No. 3-4, 231-243

Water resources, sustainability and societal

livelihoods in Indonesia

Towards engineering
harmony between water,
ecosystem and society

Hidayat Pawitan1, Gadis S. Haryani2


Department of Geophysics and Meteorology, Bogor Agricultural University,

Bogor 16680, Indonesia, e-mail:
Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Bogor, Indonesia

Rapid national development and increasing population pressures on land resources
have caused serious social and environmental problems in Indonesia that require
concerted efforts to overcome and proper resource management. A series of national
programs dealing with the problem of linking the water environment and community
livelihoods were created, and they are being implemented around the country under
a framework of broad guidelines for sustainable development and integrated water
resources management. This paper presents a brief description of Indonesian water and
environmental resources, followed by an overview of progress in and development of
an ecohydrological approach that has been introduced during the past decade. It was
recognized that the approach provides a strong scientific basis and is in line with the
needs and efforts being promoted through national movements in natural resource
management to guarantee societal livelihoods and sustainable national development.
Key words: environmental resources, degradation, national programs, ecohydrology

1. Introduction and some background

Indonesia is rich in environmental resources as
can be recognized from the abundant biodiversity,
and land and water resources However national development programs in the past decades that stressed
physical and economic aspects have generated a
multitude of social and environmental problems.
The past decades also have been characterized by
a series of natural disasters, many of which were
water and environmentally related such as water
pollution, floods, droughts, landslides and forest
fires. These are believed to be due to excessive human interventions, such as forest land conversion

to agriculture and other uses, and deforestation by

legal and illegal logging that have caused serious
erosion and sedimentation problems and pollution
in the downstream portions of catchments, that
have competed as new users of limited natural
resources, and which push land hungry people
upstream. Pockets of poverty in densely populated
areas can be recognized around the country which
overlap with degraded land and forest resources of
much reduced carrying capacity (Nerlove 1994).
Therefore, there is strong relationship between
land degradation and poverty that can be expressed
as a vicious circle of poverty which threatens the


H. Pawitan, G.S. Haryani

degradation of environmental resources. Ideas of

linking the water environment with community
livelihoods have become concerns in Indonesia that
need government interventions. Consequently, many
national programs have been initiated in the wider
economic sectors to improve community welfare.
This paper will limit the discussions of the environment to land and water resource related aspects
and their sustainability, especially the conversion of
watershed resources and forest land to agricultural
and other uses. The linking of the water environment and community livelihoods will be discussed
in the context of the programs that relate to land
and water, either in the form of national movements
adopting broad guidelines for sustainable development or integrated water resources management,
with multi-sectoral and hierarchically coordinated
implementation around the country. A description of
Indonesian water resources and the water environment problems will be given first, followed by brief
description of some of the National Programs related
to the environment and community livelihoods, the
perspective and development of ecohydrological
approach in Indonesia, and the sustainability challenge of the water environment and its linkages to
societal livelihoods within the water environment.
Some case studies of activities that link the environment and community livelihoods, the necessary
institutional set up, and lessons to be learned also
will be presented.

1.1. Indonesian water environment resources

Indonesian forest land resources consist of 144
Mha (approximately 74% of total land area of the
country) with 109 Mha of forest cover. These forest
lands consist of 18.8 Mha of conservation forest;
30.3 Mha of protection forest; 64.4 Mha of production forest; and 30.5 Mha of conversion forest. The
total land resources of Indonesia cover 1.91 Mkm2
with 17 000 islands (1.3% of the worlds land surface) that contains about 10% of global freshwater
resources, 10% of the worlds plant species, 12% of
the mammal species, 16% of the reptiles and amphibians, and 17% of the bird species. The abundance
of water resources is characterized by an annual
rainfall averaging about 2790 mm within a range
from 600 mm to well above 6000 mm per annum.
Land use and cover changes consequent to national
development efforts appear to have changed hydrologic regimes that also may be altered due to global
climate change. Recent estimates of degraded forest
land total nearly 60 Mha with deforestation rates
averaged at 1.09 Mha per year (2000-2006). Land
degradation has been severe and un-controllable,
especially during the reformation/autonomous era
of the last decade, as permits or restrictions were not
acknowledged and illegal logging, forest encroach-

ment and conversion to other uses were rampant

(Ministry of Forestry 2007).
The present management of environmental
resources (air, water, wetlands, wildlife, aesthetics,
as well as toxic and hazardous wastes) follows the
principles of sustainable development and integrated
resources management. Knowledge resources with
appropriate scientific and technological support
were planned and implemented, but their effectiveness is still in question, including integration
of the role of local knowledge/traditional wisdom.
Therefore, much effort is still required to improve
water resources management in the country in line
with the principles of: the integrative science of
ecohydrology developed by Zalewski (2005; 2007),
and integrated watershed management for sustainable water resources development through decision
making processes based on scientific research,
good governance and capacity building (Tanaka
2009). A new paradigm in integrated water resources
management and in watershed management is the
one that adopts the broad principles of sustainable
development and integrated resource management
as well as one that also considers water quality
parameters as indicators of watershed status and
carrying capacity. The perspective and development
of ecohydrology concepts and principles are very
much in line with the present national development
policy of Indonesia.
Indonesian water resources can be examined
from the point of view of regional variability, as
given in Table I, which indicates a total water available of 2110 mm a year, equivalent to a flow rate
127 775 m3 s-1, or to four million mega cubic meters per year (MCM yr-1). Dividing this regional
water availability by the population of the region
gives a water availability index that ranges from
0.15 m3capita-1day-1 for developed urban areas to
1480 m3capita-1day-1 for West Papua, with a national
average of approximately 50 m3 capita-1 day-1. This
water availability index indicates relative abundance; however, with un-equal distribution in time
and space, in many cases, water shortages have
caused serious problems to ecosystems and society.
Monsoon rains drop 80% of the annual total during the half-year rainy season, and severe droughts
with widespread impacts occurring periodically
during the dry seasons. In the past century, land
use changes have reduced forest land cover and
converted forest lands to agricultural uses, but in
the last few decades land use conversion is from
agricultural land to human settlements and industrial
land uses (Ministry of Forestry 2007). Population
pressure, land hungry people and rapid industrial
development imply extensive land use changes and
increased water demands, and cause uncertainties
in water resources availability and serious ecological problems, in addition to the likely long term
consequences of global climatic change.

Water resources, sustainability and societal livelihoods in Indonesia

The water resources and hydrologic events are

characterized by occurrences of extreme floods and
droughts, high sediment/pollutant contents in the
water bodies, and an anticipated water crisis. In
the case of Java Island, population pressures (with
121 million people in 2000) and extensive land
conversion activities have significant impacts in
the form of environmental degradation and are now
believed to have changed the natural carbon, nutrient
and water cycles; i.e., creating ecological hazards
(Pawitan et al. 2007). The hydrologic characteristics
of some major river basins in Indonesia and their
stream flows are given in Table II, with the average minimum and maximum discharges indicating
extreme conditions. Pawitan et al. (2006), from a
study in West Java, indicated changes to watershed
functions due to intensive agricultural practices
and industrial development. Depletion of forest
resources threatens Indonesian water resources due
to significant decline of rainfall (Aldrian 2006).

1.2. Water environment problems

The last census, in 2010, recorded the population of Indonesia as 236.7 million people, and
the percentage of urban population continued to
increase from previous censuses to about 50%.This


is a natural development that requires the necessary facilities so that the carrying capacity of the
natural environment can be maintained. Currently,
the high population density in Indonesia occurs
in urban development centres where population
densities reach over 10 000 people km-2. Such
high densities are known to be the root of serious
environmental problems. Increasing population
has significantly influenced the rate of change of
land use and vegetation cover with the consequent
changes in hydrological regime and quality of the
environment, increased pollution and outbreak of
diseases related to water and climate. The impacts
of environmental change continue as the water
environment problems multiply: water pollution,
forest and land degradation, declining availability
of water resources, natural resource management
issues, and the vicious circle of poverty pose threats
to the use of natural resources. This population pressure on land, with associated intensive agriculture
and rapid industrial development, has contributed to
forest land degradation, which in the long run also
results in increased water demand and environmental
change, including climate change. This high population, with a growth rate presently at 1.3% annually,
is the main driver of increased food and energy

Table I. Water resources availability in Indonesia by major islands (source: Pawitan et al. 1996).


(103 km2) (mm yr-1)

Bali & NT
W. Papua





(mm yr-1) (m3 s-1) (mm yr-1) (m3 s-1)

27 962
4 236
6 378
2 779
33 359
5 010
8 157
1 301
3 785
28 524
4 229
110 944
16 831

Total water
(mm yr-1) (m3 s-1)
2 128
32 198
1 915
7 360
1 167
3 251
2 264
28 369
1 564
9 458
1 621
4 385
2 497
32 754
2 110
127 775

Table II. Hydrologic characteristics of some of Indonesias major rivers (source: Takeuchi et al. 1995; Jayawaardena
et al. 1997; Pawitan et al. 2000; Ibbit et al. 2002; Tachikawa et al. 2004).

Name of

Catchment Mean flow Maximum flow Minimum flow

area (A)
(m3 s-1 100 km-2)
3 -1
3 -1
3 -1
(km )
(m s )
(m s )
(m s )
1 675
3 003
2 515
2 631
1 497
Bojonegoro 12 804
2 127

Jeneberang Patalikang

8 650






H. Pawitan, G.S. Haryani

consumption, which cause serious environmental

degradation and reduced ecosystem services. This
human factor will continue to present significant
pressures on land and water resources over a time
horizon of 20 to 30 years before any adjustment can
take place. Pawitan (2002) noted the Boeke report
(Boeke 1941), entitled From four million to forty
four million people in Java and Madura, indicating
the population increase from 1800 to 1930, after
the first census was conducted. It was reported that,
since historic times, the population density in Java
has been very variable, ranging from 9 persons km-2
to 880 person km-2 in 1815 with average density of
35 person km-2. This average density increased to
330 persons km-2 (1930) and then to 1000 persons
km-2 (2000). This population increase has severely
affected land usage and vegetation cover, with the
consequences of land degradation, soil erosion, and
uncertainties in the ability to adjust to future changes
in hydrologic regimes and environmental quality.
Pawitan (2000) concluded that land use changes on
Java Island had led to significant reductions in annual rainfall and associated river discharges, which
also were strongly influenced by El Nio-Southern
Oscillation (ENSO) events.

Water pollution
Pollution and the management of lakes and
rivers (inland waters) has been highlighted at the
Indodanau Bali Seminar held in 2009, that defined
the crisis due to the continuing degradation and
threats to the sustainability of global water resources. Indonesia, which has relatively abundant
water resources, was not immune from this water
resources crisis, which requires a choice of smart
solutions such as those offered by the concept of
Sedimentation and eutrophication: One obvious
consequence of the above mentioned population
pressures on land and water resources is the phenomena of erosion, sedimentation, and eutrophication in water bodies. Land use changes and forest
land conversions are occurring at alarming rates in
Indonesia. In the past three decades the estimated
rate of deforestation was one million hectares per
year, and in the last decade, during the reformation
era, deforestation rates reached three million hectares per year, while the target for reforestation was
only 500 000 hectares year-1. Significant losses of
land cover and intensive agriculture land uses have
enriched the waters in rivers and lakes, creating
extensive eutrophication. The case of Tempe Lake
in South Sulawesi was described by Hargono et al.
(2003), where a significant reduction in lake storage
capacity occurred due to sedimentation at rates of between 600 000 m3 year-1 (1980) and 675 000 m3 year-1
(2003). Such sedimentation has led to a reduction

in fish production from 58 000 tons year-1 (1948) to

between 10 000 and 15 000 tons year-1 (1981). Such
declines continue. The lake surface area reached
43 000 ha during the wet season at 6 m depth and
declined to 10 000 ha during the dry season at 1 to
3 m depth. In some of the tributary waterways, the
average depth during the dry season was 1.5 m.
Similar phenomena were occurring in most inland
water bodies in Indonesia.
Aquaculture: Floating fish ponds are becoming common practice in raising fishes, not only on
river banks, but especially in lakes and reservoirs.
The development of these aquaculture facilities
has reached an alarming level as a consequence of
the feeding practices employed that have caused
serious increases in pollution levels. These consequences become obvious during the dry season with
increasing incidences of dead and diseased fishes
due to the upwelling of hypolimnetic water with
low dissolved oxygen levels.

Changes of land use and land cover:

degradation of forest land
In the last hundred years since 1900, the use of
land in Java Island has undergone a change from
forest area to agricultural land. This change has
continued in the past three decades, with shifts from
agricultural land to residential and industrial areas.
These changes are the basis of the anthropogenic
influences on the hydrological regime and carrying
capacity. The area of natural forest on Java has been
steadily decreasing during the last hundred years,
as recorded by the Agency of Planology, Ministry
of Forestry (2008): 10 million ha in the 1800s;
1 million ha in 1989; and 0.4 million ha in 2005.
The hydrological regime is characterized by the
geomorphology of watersheds and the behaviour of
rainfall-runoff as a function of river basin hydrology.
The watershed, as an area / restricted area bounded
by topography that receives rainfall, stores and
drains water through a river network, resulting in a
surface runoff through major rivers that drain into
a lake or the sea. The rainfall-runoff relationship
indicates the watershed condition. It is expected
that an undisturbed watershed has functions that
ensure the sustainability of a balanced rainfall-runoff
relationship. If the watershed function is disturbed,
for example due to biogeophysical changes in land
watershed, watershed degradation is said to have
occurred. The occurrence of land conversion that
increases the area of bare land is indicative of susceptibility to degradation that is characterized by
increasing runoff coefficients, increased erosion and
sedimentation, increased flood discharges and flood
prone areas, reduced low flows in the dry season,
and increased ratios of maximum : minimum flows.
Land areas with vegetation cover of less than 25%

Water resources, sustainability and societal livelihoods in Indonesia

of the area are a source of erosion, in the forms of

both sheet and gully erosion. Watershed conditions
affected by forest and land degradation have been
widely found in Indonesia, as shown in Table III.
The increasing number of critical watersheds in
Indonesia has been recognized since the 1980s, with
22 critical watersheds and 13 million ha of degraded
land in 1984. This has increased to 62 critical watersheds with a total area of 59.62 million ha by 2005,
with an on-going deforestation rate of 1.09 million
ha year-1 (during the period 2000-2006).

Decreased water resources availability

The availability of water resources in Indonesia
has experienced a significant reduction in line with
the widespread occurrence of forest loss and land
degradation. This is as shown in Figure 1 which
presents the trends of discharge of the major rivers
in Java that follow declining basin rainfalls. Large


changes in rainfall and river discharge have occurred throughout the twentieth century, as shown
in Table IV, with decreases of between 1.6 to 8.5
mm year-1 for annual rainfall and 0.5 to 3.1 mm
year-1 for river discharge. The Brantas River is an
exception to this general trend, with increases both
in rainfall and annual river discharge. Table V shows
the changes in river flow patterns in Java, from
upstream to downstream, with variable discharges
in the upstream and middle reaches of the river, and
an almost consistent decrease in the downstream
reaches, except for the Cimanuk which has normal
rates of discharge.

The issue of natural resource management

Demands to increase local revenues to each
local government and the enactment of the policy
of regional autonomy after the reformation era in
last decade have brought about serious impacts on

Table III. List of critical watersheds in Indonesia in 1999 (source: Bappenas-RI 2005).

Name of the watershed

Krueng Aceh
Krueng Pesangan
Lau Renun
Nias (Kepulauan)
Kampar Kanan
Manna-Padang Guci
Way Seputih
Way Sekampung
Kali Garang
Kali Bodri
Kali Serayu
Bengawan Solo

Sumatera Utara
Sumatera Utara
Sumatera Utara
Sumatera Utara
Sumatera Barat
Sumatera Barat
Jawa Barat
Jawa Barat
Jawa Barat
Jawa Barat
Jawa Barat
Jawa Barat
Jawa Tengah
Jawa Tengah
Jawa Tengah
Jawa Timur
Jawa Timur
Jawa Timur
Jawa Timur


Name of the watershed

Tukad Unda
Kota Waringin
Bau bau-Wanca
Batu Merah
Hatu Tengah

Jawa Timur
Jawa Timur
Nusatenggara Barat
Nusatenggara Timur
Nusatenggara Timur
Nusatenggara Timur
Nusatenggara Timur
Nusatenggara Timur
Kalimantan Barat
Kalimantan Timur
Kalimantan Tengah
Sulawesi Selatan
Sulawesi Selatan
Sulawesi Selatan
Sulawesi Selatan
Sulawesi Tenggara
Sulawesi Tenggara
Sulawesi Tengah
Sulawesi Tengah
Sulawesi Tengah
Sulawesi Utara
Sulawesi Utara
Sulawesi Utara


H. Pawitan, G.S. Haryani

Fig. 1. Trends in major rivers discharge in Java during the twentieth century.
Table IV. Trends in annual rainfall (P) and river discharge (Q) in a number of major rivers in Java during the twentieth
century. Linear regression results of P and Q from the period 1916-2004.
River name
Bengawan Solo

Trends of change (mm year-1)


Table V. Trends in discharges of rivers in Java according to reach position in the upper, middle and lower sections
of the river (source: Pawitan et al. 2007).

Names of River
Bengawan Solo

Highly decreasing
Moderately decreasing
Moderately increasing
Highly decreasing
Highly increasing

Trends in river discharge

Highly increasing
Moderately decreasing
Moderately decreasing
Moderately decreasing

Moderately decreasing
Moderately decreasing

Water resources, sustainability and societal livelihoods in Indonesia

the management of natural resources. The issuance

of District Regulations have tended to encourage
exploitation of existing natural resources without
much consideration of the environmental capacity
and practices of good governance/best management
practices. This is shown in Table VI which presents
the consequences of issuing District Regulations
related to natural resource management in Java, with
39% being related to water resources and 27% related
to forest resources. The District Regulations have
provided a strong motivation for the exploitation of
natural resources with 71 (60%) out of the total of
119 District Regulations supporting resource use.
Only 10% of the District Regulations give the people
the right to access and utilize natural resources.

2. National programs related to

the environment and community
The impacts of high population densities on
Java Island have been known since the first census
in 1930, which recognized the need for increased
food production. These impacts triggered the development of large scale technical irrigation in east
Java, and continued with the construction of many
water resources development projects, including
canal structures and reservoirs, in other places in
Indonesia until the 1970s. At present, there are some
on-going national programs that take the form of
national movements adopting the broad guidelines
of sustainable development and integrated water
resources management. These programs are multisectoral with hierarchically coordinated implementation mechanisms and occur around the country.
Examples of such programs include: (i) GN-KPA a
national movement on partnerships for the safeguarding of water resources; (ii) GN-RHL a national
movement for land and forest rehabilitation; and,
(iii) the National Program on Integrated Agricultural
Management Field Schools. More sectoral programs


include (i) ESP Environmental Support Program,

a watershed development project administered by
the Department of Forestry supported by the US
Agency for International Development (USAID);
(ii) SCBFWM Strengthening Community-Based
Forest and Watershed Management In Indonesia, a
pilot project under Department of Forestry supported
by UN Development Programme being implemented
around the country; and, (iii) P4MI Poor Farmers
Income Improvement through Innovation Program,
a pilot project under Department of Agriculture that
was supported by Asian Development Bank.
At national level, several institutions were
formed, such as: (i) Coordination Board of Spatial
Planning chaired by the Coordination Minister
of Economic Affairs with members from across
several departments; (ii) National Water Resources
Board, also chaired by the Coordination Minister
of Economic Affairs with members from across
departments and daily activities chaired by the
Minister of Public Works; (iii) National Energy
Coordination Board with daily activities chaired
by the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources;
(iv) National Watershed Management Forum chaired
by the Minister of Forestry; (v) Regional Offices of
Water Resources and Watershed Management at the
provincial level; and, (vi) Water Resources Authorities at the national river basin level. However, at the
practical operational and implementation level, most
of the good concepts and plans are not working so
that obviously there is still an urgent need for an
organizational set up that can effectively deliver
services linking the environment and community
livelihoods. Such an organizational framework may
be created by adopting the basic principles of the
human-environment system (HES) approach, recognizing the regulatory and feedback mechanisms
(Scholz, Binder 2004).
Lessons to be learned from project implementation include: (i) improvements in information sharing to build trust in technical cooperation projects;

Table VI. District Regulations related to natural resource management (source: Menko Ekuin 2007).
District Regulations (PERDA) objectives:
(tax) Collaboration
Right for the community
action of the
to access, utilization an
natural resources or granting permission for
the exploitation of natural
exploitation of
control over the natural
natural resources
46 (39%)
12 (10%)
32 (27%)
17 (14%)
12 (10%)
quality standard
Total (%)
71 (60%)
36 (30%)
12 (10%)
119 (100%)


H. Pawitan, G.S. Haryani

(ii) the power of community level participation to

improve livelihoods in participating communities;
(iii) planning and implementation of community
based actions and sharing of experiences between
sectors as well as between communities across
governmental boundaries; (iv) local knowledge
and self-motivation to make up for limited financial
resources by working through existing farmers
groups and programs that they are familiar with; and,
(v) the multi stakeholders/participatory approach
is slow, expensive and time consuming but necessary to mobilize partnerships with ministries, and
decentralized local governments, nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs) and civil society.
Farmer-groups are hungry for new skills and
technologies that are friendly to the watershed environment. They all have stories and experiences
on how the use of chemicals has polluted their
water systems, affected their health and tied them to
high interest rates with banks or loan sharks. They
have also seen how converting lands with critical
slopes or improper cultivation of lands can lead
to flash floods, loss of topsoil and leaner harvests
due to loss of soil fertility and diminished carrying
capacities. Moreover, they offer some confirmation
of the influences of climate change on their lands
and activities (Pawitan, Rachman 2009).

3. Perspectives on and development of

an ecohydrological approach
Water management in Indonesia has a long
history, not only obvious from the present practices
of Subak in Bali, but also from a relic imprinted
on the walls of Borobudur, a more than a millennium old Buddhist temple located in central Java.
However, modern technical irrigation techniques
were first introduced by the Dutch East Indies
Government in the early 1900s, when large scale
irrigation schemes were constructed from North
Sumatra to South Sumatra, West Java, East Java,
and South Sulawesi. Included in this development
was the construction of hydroelectric power plants
and a flood control system for Jakarta city. In 1934,
the first regulation on water allocation was issued
to ensure the operation of estates producing coffee,
sugar cane and quinine.
With National Independence in 1945, the National Constitution stated that water as natural resources is to be used for the welfare of the people.
After being neglected following independence, a
major water resources development effort in Indonesia emerged as an important part of national
development in Indonesia during the early 1970s.
In 1974, Water Law No.11 was issued, covering
the management of surface irrigation waters ad-

ministered by the Ministry of Public Works and

groundwater administered by the Ministry of Energy
and Mineral Resources.
In the 1970s, development of large scale irrigation schemes and water management facilities was
taking place, including construction of hydrometric
stations nationwide. Adoption of the Integrated
Water Resources Management (IWRM) approach
took place in the 1990s, and, by the end of 1990s,
a combined approach of IWRM and sanitation was
adopted (Hehanussa, Haryani 2011).
Progress of ecohydrology in Indonesia can
be identified during the period from 1995 through
2011, as recorded in part by Hehanussa and Haryani (2011). The inclusion of Theme 2.3 of IHP-V
Programme in 1995 and the agreement between
UNESCO and the Government of Indonesia led to
the establishment and operation of the Asia-Pacific
Centre for Ecohydrology (APCE) in Indonesia as a
Category II Centre under the auspices of UNESCO.
The objectives of the Centre are: (i) to promote research in order to better understand the relationship
between biota and hydrology in the region; (ii) to
identify a hierarchy of environmental problems in
selected study areas associated with ecohydrological
processes; and, (iii) to introduce, enrich, and disseminate ecohydrological concepts at the regional,
national and international levels (Asian-Pacific
region). The outputs of the Centre for Ecohydrology are expected to include new management tools
to address water and ecosystem degradation in the
Asia-Pacific region.
A series of regional training workshops have
been conducted so far on ecohydrology, adopting the
framework of the International Hydrology Program
of UNESCO (UNESCO-IHP), that should play a major role in encouraging networking among scientists,
research workers, and field engineers in the region
and at national level. A network among the different
national institutions, working or dealing with water
related issues, such as water corporations, district
offices responsible for water resources management,
research agencies and universities, has already been
initiated. The Centre would further facilitate cooperation between water related scientists and engineers
to actively conduct in-house research, training and
knowledge exchanges, and dissemination of water
related information.
Field research on the application of ecohydrological approaches, conducted by the Research
Centre for Limnology Indonesian Institute of
Sciences (LIPI), from 1990 until now include:
Treatment of laboratory waste water using surface
and subsurface flows in a tropical constructed
wetland (Fig. 2);
Storm water treatment using a constructed wetland
at Lake Cibuntu;

Water resources, sustainability and societal livelihoods in Indonesia


Microphytobenthic approaches to reduce nitrogen

and phosphorus concentrations in lotic ecosystems
(Fig. 3);
Constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment
at Islamic boarding schools (Pondok Pesantren),
Arrafah, Cililin, Bandung, West Java;
Constructed wetlands for treatment of public
sanitary wastes in North Petojo, Jakarta;
Passive treatment using constructed wetlands in
a small field scale mine waste treatment system
for Kolong (mine pit), Bangka Island;
Application of ecohydrological concepts in several
lakes: Maninjau lake in West Sumatra, SemayangMelintang lakes in East Kalimantan, and Limboto
lake in Gorontalo province (Fig. 4);
Conduct of an ecohydrological engineering study
for the restoration of the aquatic ecosystem in
Lake Limboto. Ecohydrological engineering will
potentially be applied to 562 ha in the eastern
and northern parts of the lake (Lukman 2010)
to improve water retention of up to 10 million
m3 (15%), reduce flood risks in the downstream
areas, and increase fishery productivity by up to
300 tons year-1.

4. Sustainability challenge of the water

Adoption of ecohydrological concepts and
principles certainly would provide a strong scientific
basis for integrated water resources management
that would ensure the sustainability of the water
environment. However, at present, there are still
big gaps between theory and reality, with little
implementation of the principles in water resources
projects. The challenge is obvious: to simplify the
adoption of ecohydrology approaches in practice
based on knowledge already gained from laboratory
and field research and from various case studies.
The general guidance suggested for watershed
management in Indonesia was to consider causeeffect relationships: to guarantee water resources

Fig. 2. Pilot scale constructed wetland (SSFCW and

SFCW) for laboratory waste water treatment at the
Research Centre for Limnology Cibinong, Bogor (Photo:
Gadis Sri Haryani, RC for Limnology-LIPI).

Fig. 3. Microphytobenthic approach to reducing N and P

in lothic ecosystems: lab experiments (source: Nofdianto,
RC for Limnology, LIPI).


H. Pawitan, G.S. Haryani

Fig. 4. Proposed utilisation zones in Lakes Semayang-Melintang (East Kalimantan) based on hydrologyhabitatsocial
interactions (source: Research Centre for Limnology, LIPI).

conservation, to guarantee soils conservation, and

to plant trees and maintain vegetation cover. Therefore, as a necessary condition to guarantee water
resources conservation, the planting of trees to
stabilize soils and encourage groundwater recharge
is a major step. Certainly, planting trees needs to
follow good silvicultural practices and be based
upon phytotechnology approach.
Ecohydrology is a relatively new approach that
integrates the concepts of ecology with hydrology as
a holistic problem-solving approach to the management of water and environmental resources, such
as in an inland water environment, estuary, etc. The
concept of ecohydrology that has been developed
by Zalewski in Poland since the 1980s covers both
the aquatic and terrestrial aspects of a watershed
(Zalewski 2007). It is obviously different from the
approach of Rodrigues-Iturbe (2000) developed in
the United States that stressed the soil moisture-plant
dynamic relationship from a terrestrial perspective.
The study of ecohydrology models the interaction
between ecosystems and the hydrological system,
as a basic environmental management approach,
to conserve water resources, manage floods and
enhance environmental productivity at the level
of the biota. Obviously, in Indonesia, there is still
a need to conduct some ecohydrological research
and synthesis, considering the complexity of the
water environmental problems, and especially as
applied research can provide practical guidance.
Ecohydrological research is necessarily related to
the need for capacity building of human resources
with competencies to solve ecohydrological problems in Indonesia. Such capacity building can be
achieved with the inclusion of ecohydrological
education in university study programs. Research

in ecohydrology also needs to be associated with

other scientific disciplines such as environmental
economics, sociology, and culture, gender, health,
food, energy, and climate sciences, because water is
a basic building block of life that covers all aspects
of life (Hiwasaki, Ariko 2007; Strang, Undated).
The needs for ecohydrological research in Indonesia are very real in order to support the sustainable
development of the water environment. Research
on the following topics, among others, is required:
trophic levels, in terms of the balance between
producers and consumers in a lake or reservoir,
and their relationship to water levels,
ecotones, between biotic and water fluctuations,
zonation of aquatic ecosystems and lakes, for
development and management purposes,
wetland ecohydrology, related to the development
of riparian and wetland areas,
water retention capacity of the environment,
phyto-technology to solve water environment
urban ecohydrology and rural agro-ecohydrology,
river delta ecohydrology,
floods and droughts, and their environmental
All this research needs to be aligned with the
IWRM concept, to optimize the beneficial outcomes.
If the research can be used as part of ecohydrology
education in Indonesian universities, at the masters
or doctoral levels, it can be expected that the environmental management of water resources in a
sustainable manner can be achieved more quickly.
Education and research into natural resources and
the environment in Indonesia was facilitated by
the Ministry of Environment in the mid-1980s
through the establishment of research centres of

Water resources, sustainability and societal livelihoods in Indonesia

the environment in a number of public universities

in Indonesia. Currently, ecohydrology concepts can
be incorporated easily into the environmental and
natural resources study programs offered at many
universities in Indonesia.

5. Community livelihoods linkages

within the water environment: case of
Singkarak lake basin, West Sumatra
Several study areas were available for implementing different development programs, each with
its own characteristics in terms of environmental
resources as well as its socio-economic conditions,
ranging from North Sumatra to Indonesias eastern
regions. For illustration purposes, the case of the
Singkarak Lake basin of West Sumatra was selected
(Fig. 5) (Pawitan, Rachman 2009).

Fig. 5. Location map of the Singkarak Lake basin in

West Sumatra.

Singkarak is the largest lake in the West Sumatra

province, with a water surface area of 112 km2 at
363 m.a.s.l., a maximum depth of 268 m, a catchment area of 1076 km2 and a water storage capacity
of 16.1 billion m3. Geologically the lake is considered to be a volcanic lake with inlets from several
tributaries, and a single outlet at Batang Ombilin
with a hydropower station generating 175 MW. The
lake basin is divided into two districts: Solok and
Tanah Datar, and is famous for supporting recreation,
irrigation of 215 000 hectares of agriculture land,
and domestic water supplies. In the past decades,
the watershed has been characterized by the presence of an extensive area of critical lands, totalling
35 000 hectares in the catchment area, that have had
significant impacts on the lake waters.


Reductions in fish stocks in the lake are not

only due to over fishing, but also to domestic waste
inputs and sedimentation. Since 1999, during the
dry season, lake water levels drop 1.50 m, reducing
hydropower generating capacity by 50%, and, during wet season, damaging fish ponds, paddy fields
and agricultural crops around the lake. Erosion and
sedimentation are related to degraded land conditions
in the lake catchment area. These critical conditions
are believed to be due to forest logging over many
years that increased soil erosion and caused severe
land degradation. This has led to negative impacts,
including depletion of the indigenous endemic fish
known as bilih fish (Mystacoleucus padangensis),
measuring 6-12 cm in length and only found in
Singkarak Lake. During the past 20 years, the fish
population as a whole has been declining due to
over fishing, deterioration of lake ecosystems, and
lack of local knowledge on nature conservation.
During the past five years, a series of activities has been implemented at the community level
within the Singkarak Lake basin with the goals of
eradicating poverty and improving environmental
conditions. These include: (i) GN-RHL activities
through government agencies at the district level with
funding from the Department of Forestry, and which,
in the past five years, have succeeded in reforesting
8000 ha out of 35 000 ha critical land; (ii) regreening
activities undertaken by the Singkarak Hydropower
Plant; (iii) Japan International Forest Promotion and
Cooperation Centre (JIFRO) Revegetation Project,
which, since 2005, has succeeded in reforesting
255 ha at a cost of 5.5 million Rp ha-1; (iv) Clean
Development Mechanism (CDM) Project of the
Dutch Government, which, in 2009, reforested 28 ha
at a cost of 10 million Rp ha-1; (v) support of activities from Ministry of the Environment; (vi) support
of activities from the Environmental Management
Office for the Sumatra Region in Pekanbaru; and,
(vii) Kemiri tree planting activities on sloping lands
and dalu-dalu tree planting activities on the lake
shores by the local community.
This last activity was achieved through the practice of traditional values such as gotong royong
where people in the community, including school
children and NGOs, work voluntarily with support
by the Singkarak Hydropower Plant. This initiative
was officially recognized by the Government in 2009.
The activities under the GN-KPA Program
range from the national scale to the local scale, with
implementation down to the village level and with
planning support at the district government level
involving all the district technical agencies. The
activities are undertaken in three general categories:
(i) improvement of vegetation cover through tree
planting; (ii) improvement of soil infiltration capacity


H. Pawitan, G.S. Haryani

using civil technique activities; and, (iii) community

development activities.
Fortunately, recent political change has returned
autonomous local government to West Sumatra based
on local wisdom known as nagari governance.
A nagari is a local government unit and the West
Sumatra Province consists of twelve nagaris. This
autonomous local government system is founded on
local communities practicing traditional rules that
relate to the potential uses of Singkarak Lake. These
rules regulate biodiversity and management of the
lake, restrict the use of jaring lingkar fish nets,
and require the catch to be shared amongst those
who own the fish net as well as those who do not.
In 2003, there were 1202 active fishermen with a
low educational level. Another regulatory initiative
prohibits the disposal of garbage in the lake, and is
supported by the construction of garbage shelters
and by the Agency for Environmental Management
at the nagari level.

Concluding remarks
Richness in water environment resources does
not lead to freedom from water crises, and social
and environmental problems. Pockets of poverty in
densely populated areas can be recognized around
the country, which overlap with degraded land and
forest resources and much reduced carrying capacities, trapping people in a vicious circle of poverty.
The challenge of simplifying the adoption of
ecohydrological approaches to promote implementation of practices in Indonesia remains. There is
a need to incorporate these practices into societal
livelihoods as the people very much rely on the
availability of water environment resources.
Restoration and sustainable management of
the water environmental resources through different national programs can be achieved only if soil
conservation is successfully implemented through
land and forest rehabilitation. This can be achieved
only through effective and science based reforestation, revegetation and regreening programs which
are a long term, multi-generational efforts requiring all necessary support from every stakeholder
within the framework of an effective institutional
set up. Ecohydrological approaches should play an
important role in this effort.

This contribution was prepared during a visit
by the authors to ERCE UNESCO PAS at Lodz,
Poland during September and October 2011 made
possible by the kind invitation of Professor Maciej
Zalewski and the financial support of DGHE RI
through the Program for Academic Recharging
(PAR B) 2011.

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