Indonesia Manages Peat Ecosystems Better Than Europe

The term ‘peat’ was first used as a synonym for the word ‘peat’ by Professor Dr. Ir. Tejoyuwono Notohadiprawiro around 1967 while conducting An observation of tidal land development planning for agriculture in South Kalimantan. Peatland is formed from a pile of material in the form of plant organic litter which decomposes under water saturation conditions, where the rate of addition of organic material is faster than the rate of decomposition. The condition of peatlands that have such characteristics, makes peat as a special natural resource and has a distinctive biodiversity and has a hydrological function that is capable of storing very large amounts of groundwater.

Based on the map of Peat Hydrological Units (Kesatuan Hidrologi Gambut in Bahasa Indonesia, KHG for short) released by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, there are 673 KHG in all regions of Indonesia with a total area of ​​peat land of 26.4 million hectares. Peatlands are spread across Sumatra, Kalimantan, Papua and a small part of Sulawesi. As a country that has extensive peatlands, Indonesia has regulations related to the management of peat ecosystems, namely Government Regulation No. 57 of 2016. Based on these regulations, the peat ecosystem in Indonesia is divided into two functions, namely the function of protection and the function of cultivation. The sustainability of the peat ecosystem is maintained by the existence of a minimum limit of KHG protection functions, that is 30 percent. These different functions show Indonesia’s commitment in carrying out sustainable development.

This Government Regulation also shows that oil palm cultivation on peat land is not prohibited while it is conducted in peat ecosystems with cultivation functions. Oil palm cultivation on peatland is carried out with land management that is able to maintain the condition of the peat ecosystem so that it does not suffer damage. Based on Government Regulation No.57 / 2016, peat ecosystems are considered to be damaged if the water table on the peatland is more than 0.4 meters below the surface of the peat, or exposed to pyrite or quartz sediments below the peat layer.

Peat ecosystems in Indonesia are well-managed according to the distribution of their functions, while Europeans who often criticize Indonesia’s peat oil palm plantations are actually exploiting large amounts of peatland. According to the Fuel Peat Industry in EU (VTT, 2005) report, peat land in Europe has long been damaged by peat mining activities (such as coal) or burned as fuel/energy. Europe uses 1.65 million Ktoe (Kilotonne of Oil Equivalent) of peat resources for fuel.

At present, there are at least 117 power plants in the European region that use peat as fuel and 651 peat producer companies spread across Finland, Ireland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithunia and others. This activity causes the loss of European peatland to around 10.73 million hectares to date (Wet International, 2010, International Peat Society, 2002). While of Indonesia’s total peatland, only 6 million hectares are used for agriculture and the rest is a peat ecosystem with the function of protection. This shows that Indonesia manages peat ecosystems better than Europe.

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