Webinar Series “Managing the Remaining Forests” series#12 What happens to the management of our watershed?

Webinar Series “Managing the Remaining Forests” series#12 What happens to the management of our watershed?

Indonesia - 27 January, 2021

Since the 1970s until today, various reforestation programs in watershed areas (DAS) have been carried out through various activities. But still, during the rainy season the news of floods and landslides continued to spread, as well as in the dry season, forest and land fires and long drought continued. "This shows that the watershed management is not as expected, even though various efforts have been done," said the Director of Tropenbos Indonesia, Edi Purwanto, in the webinar series "Managing the Remaining Forests", which this time raised the theme "What happens to the management of our watersheds.” More than 300 participants took part in this webinar either via zoom or youtube link.

Many people still think watersheds as areas on either side of the river, whereas according to Edi, this is not the case. DAS are bowl-like basins that receive water and flow to the rivers which then continue flowing to the sea. The surface runoff characteristics are largely determined by the conditions of the bowl/watershed. "DAS is an ecosystem that receives water from rain, flows in the form of surface flow, runs to the rivers and to the sea," said Edi. How fast and how much water flow causes erosion and sedimentation will be determined by the land cover condition in its path.

In contrast to administrative boundary, watershed boundary is natural, thereby it can analyze interdependencies and interrelationships between ecosystem components such as land cover, watershed forming factors, and water flow characteristics, as well as between on site and off site impacts, and between what happens in upstream area and the impact in downstream area. Watershed management is increasingly important because the intensity of rain in tropical areas such as in Indonesia is very high so that flooding is inevitable, especially with the climate change which often causes extreme rainfall, especially with the small capacity/resistance of the soil to infiltrate water.

Forests have important functions in watershed protection including to regulate water system, keep water quantity relatively stable in the rainy and dry seasons, control erosion and sedimentation, and maintain water quality. However, Edi said that forest cover which can fully control the hydrological character of the watershed is just a myth because various other things also determine such as climate, geological condition, geomorphological condition, soil condition, and topography. So in fact, the characteristics of watershed system are determined by the biophysical constituents such as geology, geomorphology, soil, topography, and drainage condition.

Another myth that often arises, according to Edi, who in this webinar gave presentation on the myths and facts in watershed protection, is that deforestation is the main cause of watershed hydrological damage. In fact, deforestation often occurs due to the damages of forest landscapes by logging activities and poor post-logging land management, as well as forest conversion process. Careful cutting of trees or timber extraction, minimal land clearing, paying attention to soil and water conservation, maintaining top-soil infiltration capacity, and good land management for example through agroforestry, actually have the potentials to reduce watershed hydrological damage.

Unfortunately, according to Edi, carried out logging and forest conversion in a way with minimizing damage is still rare to take place in Indonesia. Edi gave some recommendations such as the need for a landscape approach in watershed management, the need for mapping of areas prone to flooding and landslides combined with BMKG weather information and disseminating it to the community through social media, the need to build a soil and water conservation movement that involves all parties, and continue to improve governance of Forest and Land Rehabilitation/RHL.

Meanwhile, Director of Planning and Evaluation of Watershed Control, BPDASHL, MoEF, M. Saparis Soedarjanto, who gave a presentation entitled "Watershed Management Policies and Implementation at Grass Root Level - Knitting Programs to Overcome Stagnation" explained, so far the watershed management policy is indeed focused on areas with high rate of rainfall, which are ecologically close to forest areas or in upstream areas, although in fact the downstream areas are also affected by flooding.

To be able to determine the interventions needed for the watershed, according to Saparis, it is necessary to have an understanding of the overall landscape configuration and not just forests. As is the case in Bualemo Regency, Gorontalo, for example, the land in the upstream area that cannot be planted because the topsoil has been lost has a big impact on the downstream area and sedimentation in this area has affected the Paguyaman reservoir which irrigates 6,880 ha of the surrounding rice fields. If calculated it involves a value of IDR 619 billion per year. "This value will be threatened if the land use of the upstream area is not good," he said.

Even though the facts on the ground show that the land condition has been extremely poor, it’s not easy to raise people awareness. According to Saparis, watershed management is closely related to human behavior, where certain background values will strongly underlie decisions in determining land and forest use patterns in an area, especially at the site level. By understanding this, a watershed-based sustainable livelihoods approach can be applied from upstream to downstream.

Saparis explained, the government has done some policy efforts to encourage the adoption of watershed programs into spatial planning programs. For example, in Article 7 of the 2018 Agrarian and Spatial Planning (ATR) Ministerial Regulation which has mentioned processing and analysis of regional physical data, social population, regional economy, the distribution of availability and the need for facilities and infrastructure, land tenure, environment, as well as disaster risk reduction. In addition, the collaboration between the Directorate General of PDASHL and the Directorate General of Spatial Planning, for example, has also sought to include watershed management in the RTRW (Regional Spatial Planning) so that it is documented and can be a reference for multi-stakeholders. "RTRW becomes a document in the preparation of RKP (Development Activity Plan), so that multi-stakeholders can be encouraged to get involved. We do not change, but give ‘color’," he said.

Not only that, the Directorate General of PDASHL has also encouraged a watershed-nuanced KLHS, although unfortunately the follow-up plan is now delayed due to staff change and covid-19. The Directorate General of PDASHL has also signed a MoU with the Directorate General of Area Development of the Ministry of Village, Development of Disadvantaged Regions, and Transmigration in 2019 to encourage planting efforts outside forest areas. Saparis reminded, that whatever program is being implemented, be it a critical land management program, flood management program, or landslide, community institutions should receive attention in the implementation of big rehabilitation programs.

Apart from not being trapped by various myths and making breakthroughs to resolve institutional weaknesses, according to Professor of the Faculty of Forestry and Environment of IPB, Hariadi Kartodihardjo, it is also important to understand the problems of watershed management, especially from the institutional side. As an incentive structure that determines behavior, institutional transformation is required to achieve the expected results. "Do not let (institutions) only carry out activities without measuring outcomes," said Hariadi, who in this webinar presented material on institutional transformation in watershed management.

Hariadi gave an example of an institution that manages the Rhine River watershed in Europe which can involve the collaboration of 7 countries, while 3 districts in Indonesia will probably work separately in managing the same watershed. According to him, this can happen because both institutions are different. One has a very high level of participation and institutional coordination, and vice versa. Thus, a common goal need to be set to have a successful collaboration; there should be a comprehensive strategy to create an integrated system that can produce common outcomes. Like a football team, all players must work together to win the match. It is different from a running race where each athlete only needs to run individually to reach the finish line. Strong institutions such as the River Rhine would even work together to make adjustment to organizational functions and tasks. "This process hasn't happened in Indonesia because when it comes to planting activity for instance, that's the only thing that can be done. If you do further with innovation, it will be wrong,” said Hariadi.

Learning from the Rhine River, according to him, the most important thing in an institution is accountability to measure the works. In managing Kapuas watershed, in West Kalimantan, for example, there are districts of Kapuas Hulu, Sintang, Sanggau, Landak, to Pontianak City that can be involved, and the most important thing for each administrative area which has its own special authority is a clear measurement of performance. Technical equipment should be installed in each region to monitor water discharge or pollution. However, if there is a violation, for example causing pollution, what is done is not punishing, but increasing capacity. "The shortcomings of the institution are studied together, then corrected by providing capacity improvement," he said.

Institutional improvements also require a number of innovations such as improving key performance indicators (KPI) towards joint outputs/outcomes, implementing a single salary system to avoid activity-based payment, implementing a multi-year budget and integrating information systems through more advanced technology. "Nowadays it is impossible to integrate the system manually," said Hariadi. According to him, it has also been applied in other countries such as China and Thailand, where the surveillance system has used application technology that involves public participation, and public reports play an important role in controlling, cross-checking and warning when violations occur.

The presentations available for download HERE

Watch the recording of webinar: