Indonesia: Agency to restore over 800 thousand hectares of peatland areas

Fardah Antara 31 Mar 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Two months after its establishment, the Indonesia Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) has claimed that it is now initiating on-field activities to restore over 800 thousand hectares (ha) of peatland areas spread across four districts.

"The (restoration) cost is estimated to reach Rp12 million per ha for five years," BRG Head Nazir Foead informed the press here, Thursday.

The World Bank and the Center for International Forestry Research had estimated the restoration cost to reach between Rp6 million to Rp36 million per ha, he remarked.

Foead explained that the agency had completed the mapping of the peatland areas in the districts of Meranti Islands in Riau; Ogan Komering Ilir and Musi Banyuasin in South Sumatra; and Pulang Pisau in Central Kalimantan, which need restoration work.

Of the 834,491 ha areas, 77 percent lie within cultivation areas while 23 percent are located in protected areas.

During the last two months, the agency had been busy recruiting personnel and outlining ravaged peatland areas that should be prioritized for restoration and identifying 100 villages whose peatland areas need to be developed further, he explained.

The identification process was carried out in cooperation with the environmental affairs and forestry ministry, the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas), the Information and Geospatial Agency, and NGOs.

Moreover, the agency also continues to work on formulating standard operational guidelines and procedures for preparing infrastructure to provide water to restore and maintain peatlands and nurseries; to conduct replanting activities; and to install borewells.

The locations for conducting the restoration work have been identified and decided based on four criteria: peatland, condition of soil cover, the presence of canals and their impacts, and the history of forest fires over the past five years, according to BRG deputy in charge of planning and cooperation Budi Wardhana.

More detailed mapping of those locations is currently being carried out.

Further, the restoration activities will be decided based on the peatland status, the underground hydrological and topographical conditions, cultivation activities, and socio-cultural condition of the local communities, he added.

BRG deputy in charge of construction Alue Dohong explained that the estimated cost at Rp12 million will only cover the hydrology restoration work, and it does not as yet include peat revegetation activities.

"Some Rp8 million to Rp10 million per ha will be needed to conduct peat revegetation work," Dohong revealed.

Foead explained that as BRG was a newly formed body, hence its funds were derived from the environmental affairs and forestry ministry, and several donors.

The BRG has proposed the allocation of funds in the State Budget for its activities.

As a whole, the agency has set a target of restoring between two and three million ha of peatland areas.

The task will be carried out through cooperation with several institutions and ministries such as the environmental affairs and forestry ministry, the public works and housing ministry, the agriculture ministry, the agrarian and spatial layout ministry, and the Bappenas.

Indonesias peatland areas are estimated to reach 20.6 million ha, or some 10.8 percent of its total land area. Of this, approximately 7.2 million ha, or 35 percent, are located on Sumatra Island.

Peatland areas help to preserve water, mitigate flooding, prevent sea water intrusion, support biodiversity, and control climate change through carbon absorption and storage.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) installed Nazir Foead, former conservation director at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), as head of the BRG on January 20.

The agency, which has been set up based on Presidential Regulation Number 1 of 2016, is chiefly tasked with preventing forest fires that particularly occur in peatlands and to restore such areas gutted by forest fires, particularly on Sumatra and Kalimantan Islands.

While announcing the establishment of the agency on January 13, Jokowi, who described Foead as a competent and experienced figure, assigned the body to immediately draft an action plan to demonstrate to the world that Indonesia was committed to handling the damage caused to peatland areas.

After graduating from the University of Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta, Foead began his career at WWF in 1992 and has since then dedicated himself to forest conservation efforts.

He was member of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and deputy chairman of the Permanent Committee of the Environment and Climate Change during the period between 2011 and 2013. He was appointed as head of the Indonesian Program at Climate and Land Use Alliance in 2014.

The appointment of the environmental activist to lead the initiative has been lauded by Greenpeace.

"If peat protection regulations are sufficiently strengthened, Nazir will be in a position to save the countrys precious tropical peatland landscapes, thereby helping to reduce fires and carbon emissions," Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Teguh Surya noted in a statement on January 15.

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