Protecting Riau’s peatland forests will protect livelihoods and food security of its people

Feature story - April 24, 2009
Greenpeace and Riau-based NGO, Jikalahari, have released fresh evidence showing that peatland forest destruction in Riau Province is critically impacting the livelihoods and food security of Riau’s river communities.

nelayan di sungai kuala cenaku, Riau.

The study on the impact of peat-water intake on freshwater prawn in the Cinaku River, InHu Regency, Riau Province, was jointly undertaken by Greenpeace Southeast Asai and Riau University's Faculty of Fisheries and Marine Science.

Riau's peatlands are one of the largest peatland areas in the world and are a huge store of carbon. If the remaining peatland forests are destroyed, it will increase greenhouse gas emissions, accelerating even more dangerous climate change, destroy community livelihoods and food security, and impact the region's rich biodiversity.

Key findings of the study include freshwater shrimp populations decreasing due to low alkalinity in river water and community incomes and food sources being impacted as a result.

"Based on results obtained it is clear that the inflow of water into the river from canals used to drain peatland areas impacts the freshwater prawn species in the rivers. To stop this problem we suggest stopping the peat-originated water from flowing into the river by closing all existing canals and halting construction of any further canals", said Dr. Deni Efrizon, Riau University.

In August 2008, former Riau Governor, Wan Abu Bakar, declared a landmark moratorium on deforestation to stop peatland destruction in the province. Riau was the first province to take such an initiative following President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's pledge at the 2008 G-8 meeting, to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation by 50 percent by 2009.

To help turn the former Governor's declaration into reality, last year Greenpeace and Jikalahari conducted assessments and mapping of some of Riau's peatland areas, including the Kampar Peninsular, to develop a rehabilitation plan for drained and degraded peatlands. However, until now the moratorium has not passed into legislation.

If the current Riau Governor wants to show he cares about the livelihoods and food security of Riau's people, he should pass the moratorium into legislation now. Greenpeace is also calling on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to urgently declare a national moratorium on peatland and forest destruction. This is essential if Indonesia is serious about addressing its alarming greenhouse gas emissions and to protect Indonesia's remaining forests and peatlands for future generations.

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