Sea sand export policy and the climate crisis in Indonesia

by: Firdaus Cahyadi*

“We have long turned our backs on the oceans, seas, straits and bays. So, starting today, we are returning to our ancestral glory as brave sailors. We will face storms and waves on a ship called the Republic of Indonesia,” said President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) when his first state speech at the parliament building, on 20 October 2014.

Applause resounded during President Jokowi’s speech in 2014. Since the government of President Soeharto in Indonesia, the mainstream of development in Indonesia has been more on the mainland. At that time, policymakers in Indonesia deliberately forgot that Indonesia is a sea country. The oceans in Indonesia are not separators between islands, but connectors. Only after Gus Dur became President of Indonesia, did the development in the marine sector receive attention again.

Unfortunately, President Jokowi’s frenetic speech has now seemed to have been forgotten. Ironically, President Jokowi himself forgot about it. Recently President Jokowi signed Government Regulation Number 26 of 2023 concerning the Management of Sedimentation Products in the Sea. The regulation reopened sea sand export permits after 20 years, the government banned it.

The opening of sea sand exports will increase the exploitation of the ocean floor. This will certainly have consequences for changes in the marine geomorphology of the exploited area. Changes in marine geomorphology have an impact on increasing the vulnerability of coastal areas to abrasion.

Without sea sand mining activities, currently, coastal areas are vulnerable to abrasion due to the climate crisis. Currently, almost all coastal areas in the world are increasingly vulnerable to drowning due to the climate crisis.

According to the 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the Southeast Asian region will see sea levels rise faster than other regions.

According to the notes of Professor Edvin Aldrian, a climate and meteorological expert at the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), the loss of coastal areas and the decline of coastlines in Southeast Asia have been observed from 1984-2015. The loss of coastal areas shows an increase. This is exacerbated by higher Extreme Total Water Levels (ETWL) in low-lying areas and coastal erosion is starting to occur along sandy beaches.

The same is reinforced by the results of a Bappenas study (2021) related to the Coastal Vulnerability Index (CVI) which classifies the level of vulnerability based on physical and oceanographic parameters showing that the length of the coastline affected by the highest CVI category (index 5) and is 1819 km long. Meanwhile, Sulawesi Island has the highest vulnerability index with 904.51 km.

What does it mean? The climate crisis causes coastal areas to be vulnerable to drowning and decreases the biodiversity of coastal areas. The exploitation of sea sand for export will add to and accelerate the sinking of coastal areas in Indonesia.

If coastal damage worsens due to the exploitation of sea sand for export, the poverty level in coastal areas will increase. Increasing poverty in coastal areas will certainly not affect the economic elite in corporations that do business in the export of sea sand.

Internal government research has shown the vulnerability of coastal areas due to the climate crisis. Research should not just be a pile of paper that is not meaningful. This research should be a basis for policy-making in the maritime sector.

The public also cannot remain silent. President Jokowi’s supporters must also remind him that the government’s policy regarding sea sand export permits will expose the vulnerability of coastal areas and people’s lives. President Jokowi’s supporters must not allow the president to become a prisoner of the economic elite in corporations that do business in the export of sea sand.

The public must remind President Jokowi of his first speech in 2014 which will stop the habit of turning his back to the sea. The policy allowing sea sand export is a clear example of a policy that turns its back on the ocean.

It’s not too late for President Jokowi to avoid destroying nature in coastal areas. President Jokowi needs to immediately cancel Government Regulation Number 26 of 2023 concerning the Management of Sedimentation Products in the Sea. President Jokowi must have the courage to correct wrong regulations and potentially damage the environment and harm coastal communities.

*The writer is a communication consultant for Indonesia

Banner photo: Reclamation on the coast of North Jakarta, 22 February 2022. (Bagus upc/

Like this article? share it

More Post

Receive the latest news

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

Get notified about new articles