Indonesia to restore 200,000 ha of peatland this year

Firefighters extinguishing a peatland fire in Karya Indah village in Indonesia's Riau province on April 3, 2019.
Firefighters extinguishing a peatland fire in Karya Indah village in Indonesia's Riau province on April 3, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency said on Wednesday (June 19) that it aims to restore 200,000 ha of peatland in 2019, as it races to reach a 1 million ha restoration target by the end of next year.

The agency was set up in 2016 to restore carbon-rich peatland damaged by fires in seven provinces on Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua islands in 2015.

Indonesia was subsequently blamed for one of the worst-ever peat and forest fire crises that blanketed much of South-east Asia in thick haze and caused billions of dollars of economic losses.

Up to 2018, the agency had restored around 679,000 ha of peatland, Nazir Foead, head of the Peat Restoration Agency, said.

"If we can improve the peat condition during the rainy season the risk of flooding can be reduced, and in the dry season, the peat can release water which will reduce the risk of forest fire," he said.

In addition to its own restoration target, the agency is also supervising the restoration of up to 1.6 million ha of degraded peatland, a project being undertaken by plantation and forestry companies on the orders of the government, Foead said.

By the end of May, those companies had restored 258,695 ha of peat area and are expected to restore another 150,000 ha by December, Foead said.