Saturday, 22 May 2010

Peatland management crucial for reforestation, govt told

Peatland management crucial for reforestation, govt told

Erwida Maulia, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta Fri, 05/21/ 2010

The government has been advised to pay extra attention to the management of peatland as a major amount of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions is believed to originate from the destruction of the land.

Herwint Simbolon, researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI)’s Biology Research Center, said here Friday that peatland fires conducted in Indonesia from 1997 to 2006 released between 1.4 and 4.3 gigatons of CO2 emission annually.

“The figures account for between 19 and 60 percent of annual global carbon emissions produced by fossil fuel burning,” Herwint said in a speech that marked his inauguration as LIPI research professor in ecology and evolution.

The critical function of peatlands as CO2 storage has been undermined for many years, resulting in among others, the government’s thoughtless policy of massive peatland conversion for agricultural purposes, called the One Million Hectare Peatland Project (PLG) in Kalimantan back in the 1990s.

The implementation of the policy led to an alarming rate of peatland deforestation, the new professor said.

“The deforestation rate of peatlands during the 1985-2000 period nearly doubled that of mineral land, which reached 1.3 percent and 0.7 percent respectively. After, the 2000 [peatland deforestation rate] increased to 1.5 percent,” he added.

The deforestation of peatland in Indonesia in 2005 constituted 25 percent of total deforestation in Southeast Asia, he noted.

The reckless construction of 4,470 kilometer-long canals through the converted Kalimantan peatland, meanwhile, led to severe drainage, massive fire and, finally, the release of a huge amount of CO2 into the air in the late 1990s, he added.

Herwint asked the government to pay special attention to the management of peatland in the country, which he said would contribute significantly to the government’s effort to cut carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020.