Saturday, November 11, 2017


Jakarta, Nov 11 , 2017 (Antara) - Peatland restoration is one of the priorities of President Joko Widodo (Jokowi)'s environmental agenda, which is aimed at partly preventing forest fires and addressing climate change impacts.
        In January last year, Jokowi established a Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG), through Presidential Regulation No. 1/2016, in order to coordinate and accelerate the recovery of peatlands.
       Indonesia's peatlands are estimated to cover an area of 20.6 million hectares, or about 10.8 percent of Indonesia's total land area.
        Peatlands help to preserve water resources, mitigate flooding, prevent seawater intrusion, support biodiversity, and control the climate through carbon absorption and storage.   
   According to BRG's target, a total of 2,492,527 hectares of peatlands would be restored within a five-year period, with the completion target set at 30 percent in 2016; 20 percent each in 2017, 2018, and 2019; and 10 percent in 2020.  
     This year, the BRG plans to build some 5,600 canal dams that could wet 400 thousand hectares of peatlands, thereby preventing forest fires.
         The restoration program in that area is carried out in cooperation with the local people trained to build water canals in line with the concept of the BRG to wet the dried peatlands.
         Forests and peatland fires in 2015 affected the health of millions in Sumatra and Kalimantan, in particular, as well as in several neighboring countries. The forest fire disaster has cost Indonesian economy an estimated US$16.1 billion.
        The agency has allocated some Rp152 billion, or some 36 percent of its total budget this year.
        "Some Rp117 billion (of the Rp152 billion) will be channeled to build infrastructure and revitalize the economy, while Rp35 billion will be allocated to strengthen the agency, as well as to boost its capacity and empower the agency," Myrna Safitri, BRG's deputy of education, socialization, participation, and partnership, noted in Jakarta on Nov 1, 2017.
        According to Safitri, the BRG has maintained partnership with some civil groups and the local governments to restore peatlands in several targeted provinces, such as Riau, Jambi, South Sulawesi, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and Papua.
       Safitri revealed that the peatland office, along with the civil groups, have built some supporting infrastructure, such as canal partitions and wells in dozens of villages.
        She remarked that the office has launched a pilot project to manage land without setting fire to trees and initiated the development of the local commodity, maritime and livestock businesses, and honey culture.

         Apart from the existing efforts, the BRG is also committed to support the Peat Cares Villages program, aimed at improving the well-being of the community living near peatland areas, and restore the protected zones in 75 villages in the provinces of Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Papua.
        The peatland office has also disseminated information and supported some innovations by the community living near peatland areas.
        The program has some 13 activities, including mapping of peatland areas, assisting some local businesses, empowering people about law by providing mediators and legal assistants in villages, as well as supporting social forestry and land reform.
        Highly accurate maps on peatlands are crucial to serve as a reference for stakeholders engaged in the decision-making process for the management of peatland areas, according to Dr Kartini Sjahrir of the Dr Sjahrir Foundation.
        "Hence, today, we discuss it together to support the efforts to restore and conserve peatlands. Based on the results of this discussion, we could conclude that a scientific solution is crucial to undertake conservation and restoration efforts," she noted on Nov 1.
         Kazuyo Hirose of the Japan Space System remarked that during the period between 1970 and 2011, several local- and national-scale maps of peatland areas were prepared, among other things, by the Agriculture Ministry, Public Works Ministry, universities, and other institutions.
         However, there were disparities in areas ranging from 13.5 million hectares to 26.5 million hectares, he added.
       The World Resources Institute has opined that all peatland maps existing in Indonesia are on a small scale; hence, it could not respond optimally to peatland management and restoration efforts on a large scale.
         Budi Satyawan Wardjama, deputy I in charge of planning and cooperation of BRG, remarked that there are 14 maps, with each one being different. The latest version was published in 2011, and the maps were never updated so far.
         Moreover, the BRG is utilizing a technology called Light Detection Ranging that creates maps, with a scale of up to 1:2,500 and equipped with 3D features.
        The government has highlighted the importance of having more accurate maps; hence, in 2016, President Joko Widodo had issued Presidential regulation No 9 of 2016 on accelerating the implementation of a one-map policy, with a map accuracy rate of 1:50,000 scale.
         The one-map policy is expected to be materialized in 2019, with the aim of avoiding overlapping land use.
         Meanwhile, financing peatland restoration in Indonesia was discussed at the "Global Landscapes Forum: Peatlands Matter" conference held in Jakarta on May 18, 2017.
       In conclusion, the panel agreed that developing a stronger partnership among government, private sector, and civil society is the cornerstone to achieve Indonesia's peatland restoration target.
        The panel believed that this would result in better articulation of priorities; create an able environment to leverage all potential financing; and ensure continued international support for government-led, high-impact, and landscape-level sustainable peatlands management in Indonesia. ***1***

(T.F001/A/BESSR/A. Abdussalam) 11-11-2017

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