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Jakarta, 31st March 2021. A new Greenpeace Indonesia report, Restoration Up in Smoke: Losing the Battle to Protect Peatlands, identifies major contradictions in the Indonesian government’s claims to meet its peatland restoration targets. Greenpeace analysis shows that repeated fires have occurred in the priority peatland restoration areas. Findings also show the presence of licensed palm oil and pulpwood plantations, coupled with new licenses on peatlands and in the areas designated for restoration. Greenpeace debunks the government’s peat restoration claims and reveals the systemic failures to deliver on peatland protection measures.

After disastrous fires in 2015 the Indonesian government made commitments to restore and prevent further degradation of peatlands. At the end of 2018 the government claimed the first term of the peatlands restoration program had surpassed its target and by the end of 2020 the government deemed the program a success. All the while fires remain an annual occurrence in Indonesia, with the 2019 catastrophic fires matching the scale of destruction of the 2015 fires.

Peatlands hold more than 21 percent of global soil carbon, and Indonesia holds a significant percentage of the world’s tropical peatland carbon stocks. Protecting this vital ecosystem is critical to tackling the climate crisis. The use of land for large scale palm oil and pulpwood plantations has brought nearly one third of the Peatland Hydrological Units (PHUs) in seven peat restoration priority provinces to critical levels of degradation and to a point where the damage is irreversible. [1]

Fires continue to devastate peatlands and risk further degradation of peatland target areas for restoration. Between 2016-2019, around 936,000 hectares—more than twice the size of Rhode Island—of peat burned in the PHUs, in the restoration priority areas.[2]  Between 2016 and 2019, the government launched a Peat Rewetting Infrastructure program to prevent fires, however in 2019 around 165,000 hectares in four Central Kalimantan PHU. [3] Large fires occurred in 220 of 520 individual PHUs whose areas contained palm oil and pulpwood concessions. [4] Conversely, forest fires were less common in areas without concession permits and drainage canals.

“The presence of large-scale plantations has greatly limited peat restoration attempts. The government needs to take real action in protecting peatlands by closing loopholes and strengthening enforcement of peatland protection and restoration regulations. Leaving companies to restore their own concessions has not yielded any significant results,” said Rusmadya Maharuddin, Team Leader of the Greenpeace Indonesia Forest Campaign.

The findings underscore the importance of protecting carbon rich peat landscapes as it balances water levels across the entire landscape, minimizing flood risks and mitigating climate change. Peat domes store water, wet dry areas and keep land low during the dry season. This all helps to reduce the risk of fires spreading across the wider peat landscape. When humans drain peatlands for large scale plantations the functionality of the water storage is immediately imparied. This is contributing to peat degradation and increasing vulnerability to catastrophic fires that are fueling the climate crisis.

“Five years of government attempts to protect and restore peat ecosystems in a piecemeal fashion has shown us that this approach is ineffective. The only way to truly save climate critical  peatlands is to protect the peat hydrology unit as a whole and to ensure that all peatlands are off-limits to any form of exploitation. Indonesia will only achieve the emissions reductions it  committed to in the Paris Agreement if it succeeds in protecting and restoring peatland,” Rusmadya asserted.

Link to the report: “Restoration Up in Smoke: Losing the Battle to Protect Peatlands”


Notes :

[1] Restoration Up in Smoke: Losing the Battle to Protect Peatlands

[2] Greenpeace’s spatial analysis of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) burnt area map. Data’s from MoEF : https://geoportal.menlhk.go.id/arcgis/rest/services/KLHK , currently available and published in https://dbgis.menlhk.go.id/arcgis/rest/services.

[3] An example of a case that occurred in the Kahayan river area and the Sebangau river PHU in Central Kalimantan has built 5,321 units of peat rewetting infrastructure. But in 2019, fires still occurred in an area of 72,800 hectares

[4] The concessions is overall cover an area of 6,053,661 hectares in this PHUs with the area burned for 2015-2019 of 1.86 million hectares

Media Contacts:

Rusmadya Maharuddin, Forest Campaigner Greenpeace Indonesia. Tel. 62-813-6542-2373 ; email [email protected]

Rully Yuliardi Achmad, Media Campaigner Greenpeace Indonesia. Tel. 62-811-8334-409 ; email [email protected]