On August 10, Jikalahari (Riau Forest Rescue Network) are launching a report from the Environmental Paper Network (EPN) titled ‘Too Much Hot Air’. This event is also supported by Wetlands International. Read the report in English or in Bahasa Indonesian.

The report focuses on the current failure of the pulp and paper industry in Indonesia to reform its peatland management. The report also argues that current commitments are not sufficient to prevent further degradation whilst the solution is at hand: local communities have been using these peatlands economically for centuries without degrading them.

Whilst the use of natural forest for producing paper has largely stopped, peatlands are still being drained to grow Acacia pulp wood. This leads to more CO2 emissions than those of the whole country of Finland’s yearly emission. Losing carbon from the soil triggers the peatland to subside, leading to flooding and loss of productive land, all of which will cause further suffering of the local communities already directly impacted by fire and haze. The drainage of peatlands is also the root cause of the yearly returning haze disaster as dried-out peat is susceptible to fires.

The report shows that there is a range of traditional uses of peatlands by local communities, like Sago (starch) for cookies and noodles, Rattan for furniture and Galam for pole wood, which can also be used for paper making. These examples should be consolidated and exchanged with other communities to build capacity and studied for upscaling in the plantation industry. Woro Supartinah, Jikalahari Coordinator, quoted that “The industry is too slow to reform its high climate-impact practices, despite its commitments. The promises they have declared are still far from best practice. On the contrary, the communities have been implementing practices that minimise the risk of fires in peat land.”

One option to minimise the impact of drainage in managing peatland is by choosing species that are local or originated in peatland. Community members in Sungai Tohor have been practicing to develop Sago (Metroxylon spp) in their peatland. Abdul Manan from Sungai Tohor explains that ”We have been planting Sago long ago even before Indonesia’s independence. This way we support our livelihood for generations, even we never experienced fire until when the company start operating in our area by building canals.” Beside Sago, Purun (Eleocharis dulcis) which grows on peatlands also has been used by community in Pedamaran village, South Sumatera to produce different kinds of handicraft such as matt, bag, sandal, and hat”. “This has added economic value for women in the village” added Saparuddin, from South Sumatera.

If the community in the villages have chosen to protect peatland while also gain economic benefit, on the contrary pulp and paper companies remains reluctant to improve their practices on peatlands. Choosing local/original species should be taken as an option in rewetted peatland. And considering that Indonesia’s Government is targeting to restore 2 million ha of peatlands, this option can be applied. In the same time, local community should be involved in the practice, since they already possess knowledge and willingness to actively participate in activity and environment protection.

Therefore, we recommend the following:

1. APP/APRIL and all pulp and paper companies in Indonesia to realised their sustainability commitment by applying meaningful and significant improvement including: apply peat protection and management regulation as regulated in PP 57/2016, implementing non-drainage practices, choose local species with community inclusion and involvement.

2. KLHK and BRG to ensure that pulp and paper companies implement peat protection and management regulation and urge the industry to adopt practices that ensure peatland sustainability, in order to ensure the future of peatland, and pulp and paper industry itself.

For further information about the report, please contact:

1. Woro Supartinah, Coordinator – Jikalahari | e-mail: worozafira@gmail.com | Tel: +62(0) 761 8402161

2. Irwansyah Reza Lubis, Program Coordinator for Community, Biodiversity, and Climate Change – Wetlands International Indonesia | e-mail: rezalubis@wetlands.or.id | Tel: +62(0) 251 8312189