WP8: Stakeholder interests and potential for sustainable coastal management through rights regulation
practices in the context of decentralisation in the Mahakam Delta, East Kalimantan
Dr. G.A. Persoon
Prof. Dr. J.M.Otto
Prof.dr. H. Martodirdjo
Dr. Johan Iskandar
Dr. J. Timmer
Mr. Rikardo Simarmata, MSc
3. Summary of the project
deforestation and aquaculture (shrimp farming) in the Mahakam delta has resulted in loss of productive
functions of the coastal ecosystem. Fish catches and productivity of shrimp farms are declining, which
affect the livelihood of coastal users. Unregulated access to and lack of ownership over resources
further enhances resource degradation. Decentralisation forms the context in which developments in
the coastal zone take place, while responsibilities for management under the new legal framework
sometimes are unclear and laws largely undefined.
Within the research cluster this project tries to answer the following question:
What are the main conflicts of interests between the main stakeholders and the relevant property rights
regimes in the Mahakam delta (East Kalimantan) related to forestry, shrimp farming and fishing and
what are the (socio-legal) requirements in terms of property rights arrangements for sustainable coastal
management in the context of decentralisation?
To answer this question the research will focus on the main actors involved in shrimp farming
and forestry (activities that have the most detrimental effect on the environment) and the potential role
they could play in the conservation of the Mahakam delta. The researchers will study the current legal
and extra-legal property rights arrangements and the rules determining access to natural resources
relevant to the situation of the Mahakam Delta. Special focus will be on the role legal processes and
legal institutions play in dealing with the many conflicting interests in the region, before and after the
decentralisation law of 1999.
The study of legal aspects of sustainable management draws on the interdisciplinary theory
developed in the framework of neo-law and development studies. The project will define how and under
what conditions law can be made more effective, in particular those elements of the legal system that
are associated with the rule of law.
The managerial aspects of resource use are inspired by theories of co-management. Comanagement
is considered to represent a more democratic, equitable and efficient governance system
as it involves participatory and collaborative processes of decision-making and power sharing. These
theories have so far paid relatively little attention to socio-legal issues, in a context of complex interests.
This research helps to further expand the theories on common property, co-management and
sustainable coastal management by integrating them with socio-legal theories on how to make law
more effective when trying to implement the former theories in practice.
4. Detailed description of the project
Along the coast of East Kalimantan, the Mahakam and Berau Rivers are important suppliers of
freshwater influencing the coastal ecosystem. The mangrove forests and seagrass beds are highly
productive biological systems important for income and food security of coastal communities (Erdman
2003). Inland deforestation resulting in increasing sediment loads and aquaculture (shrimp farms)
negatively impacts the ecosystem. Most of the 1500 km² mangroves in the Mahakam delta have been
conversed into fish and shrimp ponds (EKP Programme Document 2005). Declining fish catches affect
the livelihood of fishers and other coastal users while increased pressure on resources leads to conflicts
between user groups. Unregulated access and lack of ownership over resources further enhances
resource degradation whilst creating opportunities for outside investors having a commercial interest in
the resource (without dealing with the long-term negative effects of their activities) (Ribot 2004).
The situation in the Mahakam Delta is complex with a recent history of in-migration and a large
diversity of actors with their own socio-economic background. Large logging companies, oil and gas
exploration, shrimp farmers, traders and fishers each have an impact on the coastal ecosystem, leading
to catastrophic shifts (see FORMIDABLE 01-08). While the benefits accrue to some, the environmental
costs are borne by the local community. Some activities serve economic development, but are not
conducive for the preservation of the coastal ecosystem. International conventions also push
governments to act for conservation of biodiversity. The context of decentralisation adds a layer to the
complexity as responsibilities for management under the new legal framework are sometimes unclear
and conflicting laws allow more players to the field (Patlis et al. 2001, 2003; Hidayat and Firdausy
2003). While in theory decentralisation should lead to greater participation, transparency, and a fairer
distribution of political and economic power (Pomeroy and Berkes 1997, Agrawal and Ribot 1999), in
reality people lack the authority to make decisions and benefits of valuable resources are captured by
outside elites. Experiences from forestry show that occasionally decentralisation leads to rapid resource
extraction and local conflicts (van Klinken 2002). Changing authority structures for coastal managers
thus can have a two-way effect: responsibility under the district provides options for sustainable use and
conservation, for example by formalising local management structures (Novaczek et al. 2001), while at
the same time it creates possible incentives for more opportunistic district heads to manage resources
for short-term economic benefits (Wyckoff-Baird et al. 2000, Peluso 2002, WRI 2003).
A recent study (Bourgeois et al. 2002) shows that government officials and private sector
stakeholders share a pessimistic future vision of the Mahakam Delta and support is growing for action.
Design of rules to clarify access to land and use rights, pond management and environmental
conservation have been identified as important components of collaboration between stakeholders in a
situation where the authority is on the district level. Fishermen and shrimp collectors currently do not
share this view and may be less inclined to become actively involved. The obstructions towards
effective collaboration, conflict management, the formation of bridges, and the role of so-called
boundary organisations (organisations that work towards a certain goals and in which stakeholders are
organised) is part of FORMIDABLE 09 which focuses on discursive power, perceptions and images that
play a role in the stakeholder platforms.
This project complements FORMIDABLE 09 by focusing on the decisive power (social and
economic positions of stakeholders) and regulative power (rules and regulations) of the actors in the
playing field. Resource degradation, shifts in governance, the establishment of vertical and horizontal
linkages, the changing policy framework, commercialisation and globalisation form the context in which
sustainable resource use needs to take place. Contradictory and sometimes conflicting goals and
interests (economic vs environmental, long-term vs short-term, upstream vs downstream) however
demand an integrated management strategy that represents these different interests and in which
parties are closely collaborating, for example through co-management (Pomeroy 2001; Persoon and
van Est 2003, Jentoft 2004). However, in this context establishing such an integrated management
strategy through a new property rights regime remains a challenge. In practice, conflicts of interests
influence legislation and its implementation, causing laws to be weak, vague or conflicting, which
creates a gap between the written law and the law in action.
Whether co-management or similar strategy is a viable option in the Mahakam Delta is an open
question. In the light of the rapid political changes and environmental degradation the potential for an
integrated approach to coastal management needs to be further investigated. From experiences in
other southeast Asian countries, e.g. the Philippines, we have learned that external agents such as
NGOs (and boundary organisations) play a catalysing role the setting up of an Integrated Coastal Zone
Management system (Pomeroy 2001). The role of these organizations is dealt with in research project
7. Other fundamental aspects to the establishment of a successful management regime also need
further investigation. Building on experiences in other parts of Indonesia, the results of Bourgeois et al.
(2002), the pilot studies of the Berau area (van Zwieten 2002) and in line with the other cluster-projects,
this proposal focuses on the following questions:
What are the main conflicts of interests between the main stakeholders and the relevant property
rights regimes in the Mahakam delta (East Kalimantan) related to forestry, shrimp farming and fishing
what are the (socio-legal) requirements in terms of property rights arrangements for sustainable
what is the impact of decentralisation on the formation and implementation of these legal
The research thus will focus on the main actors involved in shrimp farming and forestry (activities that
have the most detrimental effect on the environment) and the potential role they could play in the
conservation of the Mahakam delta. The results of this research provide the building blocks for
Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mahakam Delta in the context of political and legal shifts,
market demands, and resource degradation. It will provide insights into how legal arrangements can
help to accomplish Integrated Coastal Zone Management.
a. Scientific Background
The foundations of this research proposal lay in Common Property Research and Co-management
theory. Top-down, centralized government control has lead to crises in fisheries worldwide as it created
the conditions under which fishers maximized their efforts (Kearney 1984; Pinkerton 1989; McGoodwin
1990). The basis for government control was Hardin’s (1968) “tragedy of the commons” that left no
space for local property rights and in reality resources were governed under a so-called “open access”
regime. In search for solutions and better ways of governing resources, new approaches have been
developed of which co-management is but one of the strategies. Co-management refers to the sharing
of management authority and responsibility between resource users and the government (Sen and
Raakjaer Nielsen 1996, Pomeroy and Berkes 1997; McCay and Jentoft 1996; Ostrom et al. 1999;
Persoon et al. 2003; Viswanathan et al. 2003). Clearly defined property rights are an important tool for
fishers to exclude others and to be able to enforce rules and regulations concerning the fishery. Comanagement
therefore often includes the transfer of responsibility over natural resources to local
people (Jentoft 2004; Raakjaer Nielsen et al. 2004). Under pressure of large international organisations,
and as a result of civil demands, central governments all over the world are now supporting
decentralisation as a way to transfer authority to lower government and local levels in order to improve
resource management (Pomeroy 2001).
The proposal further draws on the interdisciplinary theory developed in the framework of neolaw and
development studies (Faundez 1997, Tamanaha 1995, Bedner 2001, Oomen 2005), combining
a legal with a socio-scientific approach. This brand of theory builds on a long tradition that
acknowledges and explains the limited effectiveness of many state law elements and institutions, in
particular in developing countries (Riggs 1964, Seidman 1994, Allott 1980). Its normative side attempts
to define how and under what conditions law can be made more effective, in particular those elements
of the legal system associated with the rule of law (Seidman and Seidman 2001, Otto 2001, Tamanaha
b. Specific Objective(s)
This specific research project aims to understand the local situation in terms of power, economic
interests, and politics. The role of actors and the delineation of power and authority may help to assess
the potential for collaboration of different parties in sustainable resource management, including the
legal practices that provide a framework for action. Output will be a clear analysis of the situation and
description of the socio-legal processes towards Integrated Coastal Zone Management.
The study should result in understanding:
The main interests of all main actors involved: the economic incentives, costs and benefits of
current activities of the main actors, including the market value of products, trade lines, and
finance flows. Plus the political, traditional, customary, moral and religious practices that may
influence the situation.
The origin, establishment and functioning of the current legal and extra-legal property rights
arrangements and access to natural resources relevant to the Mahakam Delta, including the
question: How have the conflicting interests influenced the arrangements and vice versa.
The processes of lawmaking, invocation of rights and conflict resolution both through
adjudication and alternative methods.
The responsibilities and potential role of various government institutions in the use,
management, and conservation of the coastal zone and upland forest area.
The impact of decentralization on the topics studied under 1, 2, 3 and 4.
The potential legal and institutional; pitfalls of Integrated Coastal Zone Management under new
decentralised structures and scenario’s for change.
This research project will be carried out by a Full-time PhD Fellow in Indonesia and a 0.5 f.t.e. Post-doc
based in Leiden. The Post-doc and the PhD Fellow will jointly carry out the research. The Post-doc will
focus his/her research on sub-questions 2, 3, 4 and 5, while the PhD Fellow will research sub-question
1. and 6. Throughout the research both researchers will cooperate and exchange findings which will
lead to a deeper understanding of the situation and enhance the scientific outcomes. In their final
analyses of sub-question f both researchers will work together in joint-publications. The PhD Fellow will
be supervised at the CML by Dr. Persoon (in cooperation with the Post-Doc for socio-legal matters).
The Post-doc will be supervised by Prof. Otto of the Van Vollenhoven Institute where he/she will be
Collaboration through joint research meetings will take place with study of Keulartz (FORMIDABLE 09) as
the results may be relevant for both research teams.
d. Scientific Relevance
Common property, co-management and sustainable coastal management theories have so far paid
relatively little attention to socio-legal issues, in a context of complex interests. This research helps to
further expand the theories on common property, co-management and sustainable coastal
management by integrating them with socio-legal theories on how to make law more effective when
trying to implement the former theories in practice. It builds on current research at the Van Vollenhoven
Institute on the impact of decentralization on rule of law formation and land use rights in Indonesia. The
complexity of coastal zones with processes involving forestry, aquaculture, fishing and land use
practices forms an ideal case to deepen such socio-legal understanding of the theories mentioned,
especially in the changing context of governance under decentralization.
This research enhances further scientific cooperation in coastal zone research between
research groups in Indonesia (East Kalimantan) and the Netherlands. By working together, knowledge
will be exchanged and mutual learning induced. The research project will help research institutes (and
local NGO’s) working on Integrated Coastal Zone Management by providing relevant information and
recommended steps to be taken, for instance by identifying the most likely place for mangrove
rehabilitation or suggestions for improved aquaculture (mostly through the other projects in this cluster),
but also in supporting local community demands for access and property rights over resources. This
study additionally serves to strengthen the research in the Berau area. Results and approaches can be
compared, lessons learned and best practices can be exchanged.
5. Participation in a graduate School ('onderzoeksschool')
Through the active participation of the applicants in two research schools (CERES and CNWS), it is
possible to select relevant courses for the PhD student depending on skills and experiences. Because
of the fact that the PhD student will be recruited through an open procedure in Indonesia it is difficult to
decide which of the courses offered by the research schools will be of relevance. It may also be
possible to organize more tailor-made courses in combination with some other cooperation projects with
6. Scientific performance of members of the research group(s)
2005 Harkes, I.H.T. R.S. Pomeroy, G.A. Persoon (in progress) Decentralisation and Coastal
Resource Management in the Philippines and Indonesia. Paper presented at the “People and
the Sea III: New Directions in Coastal and Maritime Studies” Conference, 7-9 July, Centre of
Maritime Research (MARE), Amsterdam.
2003 Persoon, G.A., D.M.E. van Est and P.E. Sajice (eds.) Co-management in Asia, a comparative
perspective. Routledge/NIAS Press, London/Copenhagen.
2004 Persoon, G.A. Stakeholders, rightholders and caretakers. Present and future actions in the
Sebangau Area (Central Kalimantan) A report for the Sebangau Orang Utan Conservation
Project. Palangka Raya: WWF, 63 p.
2003 Otto, Jan Michiel, Incoherence in Environmental Law and the Solutions of
Coordination,Harmonisation and Integration. In Niessen, Nicole and Bedner Adriaan, Towards
Integrated Environmental Law in Indonesia?. Leiden: CNWS, pp 11-20.
2004 Otto, Jan Michiel, Stoter, Suzanne & Arnscheidt, Julia. Using legislative theory to improve
law and development projects. Regelmaat, 2004/4,pp. 121-135
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