Video reveals threat of peat fires from targeted peat restoration areas

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - Pulang Pisau is one of the peat restoration priority regencies located in the province of Central Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. The key consideration underlying the designation of Pulang Pisau as one of four priority regencies was the level of devastation caused by 2015’s peat fires which swept through the regency.

Furthermore, the peat fires which took place in this regency had a direct impact on the capital of Central Kalimantan, Palangkaraya, due to their proximity to the city.

In carrying out its role of evaluating peat restoration efforts undertaken by the Peat Restoration Agency (BRG), the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry performed a series of ground checks to verify the peat agency’s claims of ‘peat restoration interventions’ as well as to assess the threat of peat fires in 2017.

To follow up on these developments, this is the news report compiled by foresthints.news, all of which aim to ascertain the peat agency’s real level of performance in the first 10 months of 2016 after being formed to accelerate the restoration of its targeted peat areas.

Significant threat

Judging by the video below, there is still a distinct possibility of peat fires occurring this year, originating from the conservation areas and protection forests that the peat agency has classified as cultivation zones in its targeted indicative peat restoration map.

“The ground checks conducted by the ministry were intended to confirm the level of peat restoration interventions claimed by the peat agency in anticipation of peat fires in 2017 arising from the targeted indicative peat restoration areas,” said Professor San Afri Awang, a member of the peat agency’s steering team, when presenting the video related to the field inspections at his office (Jan 19).

The peat agency has claimed that as part of its 2016 performance, it made ‘peat restoration interventions’ in an area spanning more than 800 thousand hectares encompassing 105 villages, including villages situated in Pulang Pisau.

“The ground level checks were also aimed at clearing up claims of peat restoration interventions made by the peat agency that have misled the public,” he said.

The University of Gajah Mada Professor made a strong appeal for the peat agency to be aware of the threat of peat fires in 2017, saying that they were quite likely to emanate from targeted indicative peat restoration areas.

“In light of this, the peat agency should not make claims that mislead the public. As it turns out, the peat agency has not made any real peat restoration interventions on the ground level in nearly all of the 105 villages, as it has claimed,” he bemoaned.

More specifically, San Afri continued, the community preparations which the peat agency has insisted were part of its peat restoration interventions almost wholly remained at the data preparation stage.

Responsible measures

To conduct its ground checks, the ministry selected a number of locations, most of which are close to the city of Palangkaraya and also form part of the peat agency’s targeted indicative peat restoration areas.

The following photos, which were taken from the video above, show just how serious the threat of peat fires, starting in targeted indicative peat restoration areas, recurring is.

According to Professor San Afri - who also serves as the Ministry’s Director General of Forest Planology and Environmental Governance - peat restoration interventions, of course, have to be measurable, primarily on the basis of the number of hectares affected by policy and the ground level interventions carried out.

As such, he added, peat restoration interventions obviously cannot be based on mere claims, but must be based on responsible measures given that such peat restoration interventions need to have an impact on the ground level.