President Joko Widodo has signed a revised government regulation clarifying the Indonesian government’s level of commitment in providing protection and management of peatland ecosystems. large areas of pulp plantations, alongside with palm oil plantations, has been established on peat soil, by draining peat and planting acacia. Drained peat release huge amounts of greenhouse gas (up to 80 tons/year/ha), provide the fuel for extensive fires, and in the long term lead to soil subsidence and seasonal flooding. To date, all pulp wood concessions are managed in a way that keep eroding the peat. Even the methodology based on zoning and controlling water level are not able to prevent the erosion. The revised regulation is aimed to address this situation.
The new peat regulation is ultimately includes:
- A permanent moratorium on the exploitation of peatlands, except in designated paludiculture zones with specific types of peatland vegetation (not on drained peat).
- No new canals.
- Aside of the ban of burning of peatlands, also tolerating the burning is illegal (companies have full responsibility on the concession)
- Restoration of burned peatlands should start within 30 days, or the land will be taken over by the State (and restoration expenses charged to the companies).
- The government will provide criteria to measure and to enforce the regulation requiring to keep water table at no more than 0.4 meters below the peat surface (a condition that most of pulp plantation are not fulfilling).
- The central government will keep the control over peat management, overlying local administrations.
With these measures, the government claims to put an end to the business-as-usual practices on peat management, as stated by the Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Dr Siti Nurbaya in a recent interview with Foresthints.news.