In­done­sia ex­pands its peat­lands pro­tec­tion

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

In­done­sia has ex­tended le­gal pro­tec­tion for its wet­lands and peat bogs by ex­pand­ing a ban on the con­ver­sion of these car­bon-rich swamps into plan­ta­tions. The move, if prop­erly en­forced, could dras­ti­cally re­duce In­done­sia’s size­able car­bon foot­print and pre­vent a re­peat of the an­nual for­est fires that plague the re­gion, con­ser­va­tion­ists say. A mora­to­rium on new con­ver­sions of cer­tain peat­land ar­eas has been in place since 2011 in In­done­sia. But this lat­est re­vi­sion-signed into law by Pres­i­dent Joko Widodo, and is­sued Mon­day-clarifies and ex­pands the law, en­sur­ing that all peat­lands are cov­ered and that com­pa­nies must re­store ar­eas they have de­graded.

“We want to avoid any mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the ex­ist­ing reg­u­la­tion, which gives the im­pres­sion that land-clear­ing is still al­lowed,” en­vi­ron­ment min­istry spokesman Djati Wit­jak­sono Hadi told AFP Tues­day. Peat­lands take thou­sands of years to form as lay­ers of dense wet plant ma­te­rial com­pact into dense car­bon stores. When these an­cient swamps are drained or cleared by fire to make way for com­mer­cial plan­ta­tions-such as for palm oil or pulp woodthat car­bon is re­leased into the at­mos­phere. Con­ser­va­tion­ists hailed the strength­ened mora­to­rium as a win for cli­mate change. “This reg­u­la­tion will be a ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion to the Paris cli­mate agree­ment,” said the World Re­sources In­sti­tute’s Ni­rarta Sa­madhi, re­fer­ring to a bind­ing agree­ment on re­duc­ing emis­sions.

Nor­way-which pledged in 2010 to pay In­done­sia up to $1 bil­lion if it pre­served its rain forests-com­mit­ted $25 mil­lion to re­store peat­lands in the wake of the an­nounce­ment.

The mora­to­rium could also help pre­vent the out­break of deadly smog from for­est fires that shrouds the re­gion ev­ery year, caus­ing wide­spread ill­ness. Peat­lands are moist and un­likely to ig­nite un­less drained.

Hadi said the new reg­u­la­tion pro­vided clearer guid­ance, en­sur­ing no burn­ing or drain­ing was per­mit­ted. Fires de­lib­er­ately lit in 2015 across In­done­sia’s forests and peat­lands were the worst in nearly two decades.

Re­search from Har­vard and Columbia uni­ver­si­ties in the US es­ti­mate the cri­sis caused more than 100,000 pre­ma­ture deaths in In­done­sia and neigh­bor­ing coun­tries. The World Bank put the eco­nomic im­pact at $16 bil­lion-twice In­done­sia’s clean-up bill in the wake of the dev­as­tat­ing 2004 In­dian Ocean earth­quake and tsunami. — AFP

NEW DELHI: In this Fri­day, Nov 11, 2016, photo, a pol­lu­tion me­ter shows a per­fect 10 as vis­i­tors to the Pa­harpur busi­ness cen­tre, one of the Delhi’s green­est of­fice, sit in the lobby. — AP

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