Indonesia: Public must be vanguard of peatland protection - Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG)

BRG The Jakarta Post 30 Dec 17;

As it concludes its second year of operations in restoring peatland, the national Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) is ready to report what it has accomplished within its duties and functions throughout the year. In 2017, the BRG's activities involved wetting peatland ecosystems, aiding and empowering local economies, arranging, restoring and mapping the government's peatland hydrological area (KHG) map, building a model plot for integrated peatland farms and installing water surface level monitoring devices.

"The peatland restoration project is not simply about wetting peatlands and replanting in order to repair broken ecosystems. It also is about empowering communities to live on peatland," BRG chief Nazir Foead said. This message was delivered during a media discussion on Dec. 28, in which the BRG talked about its strategic plans for the years leading up to 2020. The agency noted how efforts for the protection and management of peatland are closely connected to economic, social and ecological goals.

According to Myrna A. Safitri, who is BRG's education deputy for socialization, participation and partnership, the BRG in 2017 worked together with 75 villages and subdistricts in seven provinces targeted for peatland restoration. The villages are located in Riau (11 villages), Jambi ( 10 ), South Sumatra ( 15 ), West Kalimantan ( 16 ), Central Kalimantan ( 10 ), South Kalimantan ( 10 ) and Papua (3).

"The combined size of all the villages and subdistricts is 1,180,441 hectares, with 878,326 ha being peatland managed by local communities. Out of all those peatlands, some 267,111 hectares have been targeted for peatland restoration. The BRG is carrying out its Villages Care for Peatland program, which has become the vanguard of peatland ecosystem maintenance."

The BRG's activities this year also involved efforts to revitalize the public's sources of income. Alue Dohong, the BRG's deputy for construction, operations and maintenance, reported that 101 community groups had been trained to maintain lands without burning them. These groups have also been trained to develop local commodities, develop freshwater fisheries, implement farming systems and cultivate honeybees. The number of people burning peatland is currently on the decline. Through this project to revitalize public sources of income, the BRG has helped to raise public awareness on peatland ecosystem preservation.

Throughout 2017, the BRG has also facilitated the development of infrastructure for peatland wetting in the form of wells and canals in six provinces: Jambi, Riau, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan. The total area of affected peatland is around 200 thousand ha, some 103,476 ha of which are wettened peatland managed by the BRG, with the other 98,978 ha being managed by BRG's partners. Some 60 percent of the BRG's project areas, or about 62,126 ha, are in Central Kalimantan. The wells drilled by BRG number around 5,900, while the number of canals built together with the public number 1,849.

Other accomplishments this year include the Peatland Ecosystem Restoration Plan (RREG) for seven targeted provinces as well as mapping the government's peatland hydrological area (KHG) map. The mapping has been done for KHGs in the Lalan-Merang rivers and the Sugihan-Lumpur rivers (which are in South Sumatra), the Tapung Kiri-Kiyap rivers (in Riau), the Ambawang-Kubu rivers (in West Kalimantan), the Utar-Serapat rivers (in Central and West Kalimantan) and the Barito-Alalak rivers and the Maluka-Martapura rivers (in South Kalimantan). Previously, the BRG had mapped KHGs at the Saleh-Sugihan rivers and the Cawang-Air Lalang rivers in South Sumatra and the Kahayan-Sebangau rivers in Central Kalimantan.

To further support the monitoring of peatland ecosystems, the BRG has set up water surface level observation points in various peatland areas. Data on the water surface levels can be accessed in real time. The BRG installed 40 of these observation devices in 2017. Eight of these units were set up in South Sumatra, while Riau and Jambi each received seven. There is only one in West Kalimantan and seven in Central Kalimantan.

Monitoring peatland areas is important for identifying the risk of land and forest fires. Dried peatland can be prone to fires. In 2015, peatland fires led to trillions of rupiah worth of losses and a regional smog disaster.

To better supervise peatland areas, the BRG has also established a series of guidelines. The BRG welcomes government efforts to direct concession holders to complete recovery plans. In 2018, the BRG will supervise companies as they carry out peatland restoration activities. As many as 1.4 million ha in targeted peatland restoration areas are in forest and farm concession areas.

All of the BRG's restoration activities are comprehensive and inclusive in nature in that they involve all stakeholders. The BRG doesn't simply wet the peatland, but it strives to make the public the vanguard of peatland management and efforts to prevent peatland fires.

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