Indonesia: A watershed approach to coastal zone management in Balikpapan Bay (#85)

To improve the state of the Balikpapan Bay coastal ecosystem, a coastal zone management project was initiated. After initial project failure, action was taken for policy reform and an adaptive management approach was developed, focusing on inter-agency integration. This case illustrates the importance of active project learning and adaptive management. 


The project achieved early success in building watershed consciousness in individual villages within the region. However, progress stalled when initial training, education and demonstration projects in communities failed to generate commitment at the higher government levels required for watershed-level management.  An adaptive management approach helped formulate a new model for Balikpapan Bay that successfully engaged both institutions and local communities.

Structured interviews and an internal assessment to refocus the project on problems confronting institutional counterparts resulted in an immediate increase in local stakeholder ownership and integration among local institutions with watershed management authority. Inter-agency integration was critical for any significant or sustained movement toward watershed-level results, i.e., improved or stabilized condition of marine and coastal resources in Balikpapan Bay.

Early implementation actions demonstrated the effectiveness of interdepartmental issue teams and techniques for progressively moving work from independent projects to integrated institutional planning and budgeting. Interdepartmental collaboration led directly to new institutional arrangements codified in the signing of the Balikpapan Bay Strategic Management Plan.

Lessons learned

Active project learning and adaptive management, including the use of structured interviews, allows project managers to revise strategies and identify concrete steps for building trust, agreeing on common priorities, developing capacity and building shared visions and team thinking.

Importantly, it leverages greater action by building on the priorities and perceptions of local institutional counterparts. In this way, projects can increase their effectiveness and efficiency by building on the interests of local institutions and strengths in carrying forward shared work priorities.

Importance of the case for IWRM

This case demonstrates how the successful evolution of a coastal project depended upon the integration of land and freshwater issues into coastal management.

The case also demonstrates that while local community participation is important,many watershed-based approaches may first require an understanding andintegration among government institutions with watershed-scale authorities.

Photo credit: Zulfikar Dharmawan