News / 9 December 2019

Fisher folk in Indonesia file a complaint against the Dutch Export Credit Agency Atradius DSB

At the end of November, the organisations WALHI South Sulawesi (part of Friends of the Earth) and Both ENDS filed a formal complaint with the Dutch export credit agency Atradius DSB. Despite the warnings from local communities for the negative consequences of a land reclamation project in the bay of Makassar, Atradius DSB advised the Dutch government to provide dredging company Boskalis with insurance for the execution of the project. The consequences for the fish stock, the beach and the lives of thousands of small-scale fishing communities are severe. Atradius DSB has not sufficiently investigated these harmful consequences beforehand.

"The fishing communities are not necessarily against land reclamation projects," says Muhammad Al Amin, director of WALHI South Sulawesi, who is visiting the Netherlands, "but they want to be involved in the design and implementation of such a project. It's quite possible to do this type of project without causing all sorts of harm to people and nature.

Involve fisher folk in the process

"Fisher folk's knowledge and expertise are very useful in the process of mapping out possible places where sand extraction would cause as little damage as possible. They know very well where their fishing areas are, which areas are vulnerable and how the surrounding ecosystem influences this. But, unfortunately, the fishers have not been involved in this process at all. Let alone their families. Everyone was confronted with a fait accompli when it was already too late and the damage had already occurred."

Families expelled

In this prestigious land reclamation plan, which originally stemmed from the Indonesian government, sand was extracted along the coast south of Makassar. That sand would be used to build five islands in the shape of a Garuda bird in the bay of Makassar. The project soon became highly controversial because neither the local government nor the Indonesian project developer took the rights of the people who already lived in the bay of Makassar very serious. In 2014, 43 families were expelled without any form of compensation from the land they had been living on for decades, but which had now been designated a "project area". Atradius DSB has always maintained that these families were expelled for "another project," but has never substantiated this argument. 

Up to 80 percent less fish

The project only started in 2017, when the 2013 environmental impact assessment had expired. According to Indonesian law, a new assessment should have been done, but the project owner thought an annex to the old report suffice. When it became clear to the fishing communities along the coast that the sand extraction of Boskalis had enormous consequences, the protests intensified. Not without reason, as the fish stock dropped enormously. Some fisher folk saw their catch reduced by as much as 80%. 

Coastal erosion

The sand extraction also caused enormous erosion; where previously the coast had eroded to about a meter inland, the erosion has now risen in some places to 15 to 20 meters. Two cemeteries along the coast were severely damaged, which caused the buried bodies to end up in the sea. Due to the loss of income, many families were forced to remove their children from school to have them sell things on the street. 

Atradius DSB knew about the abuses

Boskalis started sand extraction on June 15th 2017, which led to protests from local fisher folk against the dredging ship. As a result, work stopped for three days, and only police intervention enabled Boskalis to continue. This should have been a clear signal to Atradius DSB and the Dutch government that local communities around Makassar had not been involved well in the project. Nevertheless, the Dutch government still granted the insurance on 27 June 2017.

Both ENDS link between fisher folk and Atradius DSB

Both ENDS has been supporting the fishing communities since 2016, together with WALHI South Sulawesi. On the one hand, together with them, we look at how the situation that has arisen can be improved, on the other hand, we point out to Atradius DSB its responsibility and the non-compliance with its own social and environmental policy.


Despite their protests during many years, the affected fishing families have not been heard by project developers, executers and insurers. This is why they decided, together with WALHI and Both ENDS, to call upon Atradius DSB to improve its policies through a complaint. The complaint has two grounds: Atradius has not properly applied its own policy and Atradius is directly linked to the social and environmental effects of the project, which it could have at least partly prevented.


The fishing communities, above all, ask for recognition for the fact that they should have played an important role in the project, and for the suffering the project has caused. They also call on Atradius DSB to explore all possibilities to ensure compensation for the affected communities. They call on Atradius DSB to discuss this with them in Makassar. The communities hope that in the future, Atradius DSB will better ensure that, before insurance is given, local communities are involved in the project.

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