peatland use for agriculture / plantation is much more sustainable than peatlands mined and burned for energy materials
In April 2017, the European Union (EU) issued a palm resolution threatening a palm oil boycott into the EU. One reason is because some of the oil palm plantations are developed on peatlands. Of course, the palm oil boycott was heavily criticized by palm oil producing countries, especially Indonesia and Malaysia.
The EU’s concern for the sustainability of the peat seems noble, as if Europe would protect and conserve its peat. Looks noble again with the plans of several European countries offer funds for peat restoration to Indonesia. These things indicate as if the management of peat in Indonesia is worse than Europe. Is that true?
The data turned out to be different. Based on the report of Fuel Peat Industry in EU (VTT, 2005) Europe is not preserving peat but has long damaged peat in Europe, among others by mined peat (like coal) and burned as fuel / energy. Currently there are at least 117 power plants that use peat as fuel and 651 companies of peat producers scattered in Finland, Ireland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithunia and others.
Peat mining for these fuels has already been done by Europe. Therefore, it is not surprising that European peatlands each year are reduced or lost. To date, European peatlands have lost about 13.34 million hectares (Wet International, 2010, International Peat Society, 2002). In the period 1990-2008 alone, European peatlands have been lost about 2.6 million hectares, while in Asia only 1.1 million hectares.
Unlike in Europe, in Indonesia peatlands are partly used for agriculture and some are protected peatlands. Of the approximately 18 million hectares of Indonesia’s peat, it is estimated that only 6 million hectares are used for agriculture / plantation.
Is it wrong to use peatlands for agriculture? This is still a pro-cons. But it is certain that using peatlands for agriculture is much better than being mined and burned as energy.
Peatlands are formed from the accumulation of organic matter from plants. Therefore logically planting crops on peatlands also means adding organic matter (biomass) so that it is part of how to preserve peatlands. It is true that in peatland farming practices many erroneously in the management of peatlands such as land clearing, water system, etc. But it is a technology and management problem that can always be fixed.
This is analogous to the many cases of money politics practice in Pilkada. Should elections be removed due to many cases of money politics practices? Of course not. Pilkada still run but improved system and supervision to minimize money politics practices even disappear.
Similarly, about agriculture / peat plantations. The presence of plants on peatlands is a natural peatland and even part of preserving the peat itself. Of course the technology and its management need continuous improvement in order to fulfill the ecofarming principle.
Clearly, the utilization of peatlands for agriculture / plantations is much more sustainable than mined peatlands and burned for energy materials that increase carbon emissions as in Europe.
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