Promoting Water Resilience in Semarang: Building a Coalition through the Water as Leverage (WaL) Program


Like many cities in the region, Semarang faces mounting challenges related to climate change and rapid urbanization. In the past decade, Semarang has been engaging in a range of national and international networks to promote resiliency – from community programs to large scale infrastructure. This attention and engagement from local and global network of actors, collaborators, and donors cumulatively contribute to Semarang’s strategic role in Indonesia as well as a leader in urban climate change mitigation and adaptation practice. More recently, Semarang is chosen as one of the three cities in Asia for the Water as Leverage program initiated by the Government of Netherlands in 2018 – a new opportunity for the city to not only tackle water-related issues and climate change, but also its various urbanization challenges. Semarang is compounded by a range of interrelated water issues from river and tidal floods, lack of clean water supply, drought and land subsidence. Government efforts tend to be responsive and partial, primarily focusing on mitigating tidal inundation occurring in coastal areas. However, with rapid urbanization along the watershed, its hilly catchment areas are also experiencing floods and intensifying downstream risks. The lack of comprehensive efforts from upstream to downstream is a result of complex institutional structures involving city, province and the national government. Indeed, collaboration and good cooperation amongst all stakeholders are key in realizing integrated water management from upland to coast. This paper documents and examines the Water as Leverage program as an opportunity to build a coalition amongst disparate stakeholders to promote water resilience in Semarang. Some key questions to be addressed are: (1) how has the cumulative experience of resiliency building in Semarang contributed to the success (or at least so far) of the program? (2) how has the proactive role of the government contributed? (3) how the alignment of research and engagement between international teams and city vision was critical? This study uses qualitative methods to unpack the problems and issues faced by each stakeholder, more importantly, the actions taken and yet to be done to create institutional alignments. Methodologies include stakeholder mapping, institutional capacity analysis, and assessment of opportunities for collaboration. As the process is ongoing, interim results have demonstrated that there are opportunities to build a strong coalition. The intensive research and engagement from the design teams and knowledge partners have resulted in a good commitment of the government in local, provincial, and national levels – further supported by the active involvement of local stakeholders, the including Semarang Advisory Councils consist of Professors of local Universities, various local community groups, and local NGOs.

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