Peatland Restoration in Indonesia Needs a Global Collaborative and Pragmatic Approach

The restoration of peatlands in Indonesia and elsewhere is important not just for these countries but also globally. The burning of peatlands can add significant amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and can also lead to other problems, such as haze that affects airline traffic.

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The restoration of peatlands in Indonesia and elsewhere is important not just for these countries but also globally. The burning of peatlands can add significant amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and can also lead to other problems, such as haze that affects airline traffic, health issues for the local population and a decline in working days. There is widespread concern about the frequent burning of forests and peatlands in Indonesia. The national government and global community have taken certain steps to address this problem.

There are a number of studies on the ecological features of peatlands,1 environmental problems due to their burning,2 and also the effectiveness of governmental actions.3 One article which looks at the institutional aspects argues that it is critical that community livelihoods are considered in the restoration effort, and it is imperative to ensure that communities have profitable livelihood options that are compatible with ecosystem restoration.4 This article written for the G 20 Global Land Initiative as part of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)5 looks into the economic and institutional aspects of peatlands in Indonesia and proposes possible changes which are necessary to make the global response to this environmental problem a lot more effective.6 It argues that though the restoration of peatlands has global benefits which outweigh the costs, the benefits accruing to the Indonesian population may be lesser than their costs. This may have implications: (a) there may be inadequate efforts within Indonesia to restore peatlands even if adequate laws are made for this purpose, and (b) there is a need for effective international support.

This article is written for general readers including policymakers with the objective of contributing to public discussions. It is based on a discussion with multiple stakeholders in Indonesia, including the representatives of the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRGM), the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the provincial department of environment and forests in Riau, and academics. It is also informed by a short-period field trip in Riau province and discussions with local communities. We have also seen a sample of projects which are carried out by BRGM and other agencies to restore peatlands in the province.

Fire in Peatlands – more severe than forest fires

People who are not specialists may not have a clearer understanding of the nature of forest fires in Indonesia. Many may be thinking that ordinary forests are put on fire by people or companies and these fires cause haze and emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, there is more to it. There is a need to have a deeper understanding of the socioeconomic determinants and implications of fire that happens over peatlands in Indonesia.

A major part of the land in certain provinces of Indonesia (which are known for frequent forest fires) is covered by peat deposits. As is well known, peat is a soil deposit with a higher content of dead wood (historical accumulation of wood materials from past vegetation). Peatlands are composed of thick layers of partly decomposed organic material that (are) formed over thousands of years, (and) they store lots of carbon’.7 Since these soil deposits have a high carbon content, they release huge amounts of carbon dioxide when they burn. About 36 percent of the world’s peatlands are in Indonesia.8 Nearly half of the total emissions of carbon dioxide from Indonesia (in 2015) are from peatlands. The depth of these deposits can be anywhere between 1- 4 or more meters.

Whenever there is a fire, these peat deposits continue to burn even after the vegetation over the surface is burnt down. There can also be a burning of peatlands unconnected to forest fires. Depending on the depth of the peat deposit, the completion of its burning may take days and weeks. The severity of forest fires (in terms of the emission of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere for a significant time once a fire occurs) can also be due to the presence of peatlands. The peatlands are generally wet but drained peatlands are highly prone to fire. Extinguishing the fire on the surface will not lead to the cessation of the burning of peat soil. It may be noted that setting fire to vegetation can be a cheaper solution to make it suitable for cultivation in many contexts, but the presence of peatlands makes this a lot more environmentally harmful in these Indonesian provinces.

Peatlands – more than forests

In a province like Riau, 60 percent of the land is covered by peatlands. The total area of peatlands in Indonesia could be somewhere between 20 to 25 million hectares. Hence, peatland can be observed not just on forest land but also on agricultural, industrial, residential and urban land. The restoration of peatlands (or the efforts to avoid the burning of peatlands) has to take place in all these different kinds of lands or there can be fire even on soils which are not covered by forests. Hence, the problem may not be forest fires but land on fire. Even normal use of land for farming or industrial purposes has to be carried out in a way which should not cause the burning of its soil. The mitigation of this problem requires the coordination of different agencies; peatland conservation cannot be the responsibility of any one agency like the department of forests, which is the main agency for controlling forest fires.

Cost and benefits of preserving versus using peatlands

Peat soil is highly acidic and not many trees and plants can grow in it. Pineapple and timber trees like acacia grow in peatlands but these may not be enough to give an adequate income to local people. This would mean that the benefits of conserving peatlands are not high for the local people. Moreover, the opportunity costs of conserving peatlands are higher since local people (especially in provinces like Riau) cannot use a major part of their land surface for other purposes. The cultivation of normal crops requires clearing vegetation and the addition of anti-acidic materials. The easiest way to clear the peatland to make it suitable for cultivation is by setting it on fire.9 Hence, the benefits to the local people or others in putting this land on fire are higher (even if it causes environmental and other problems). Otherwise, they may have to spend a lot more and also be cautious to avoid fires even on land that is not forest land. Given these costs and benefits, the local people may not have a high incentive to protect or conserve peatlands.

It is true that the burning of peatlands affects local people by causing local environmental problems. Local schools may have to be closed down when the fire is intense. There may be a loss of working days and an increase in illnesses. However, a major part of the environmental damage due to peatland fires is borne by other countries (like Malaysia and Singapore because of the haze it causes and its impact on activities such as air travel), and the world (due to the emission of carbon dioxide).

It is globally beneficial to restore peatlands rather than incur losses due to their burning.10 There are estimates such as the following which highlight the rationality of restoring peatlands: Kiely et al (2021)11 note, ‘… the losses and damages under a scenario where 2.49 million hectares of degraded peatland had been restored, finding a reduction in economic losses of US$8.4 billion’. However, the issue is that local people may get only a small part of these benefits, and that may not encourage them to restore peatlands. If we take 1000 – 1500 USD per hectare as the cost of conservation, the benefits in terms of reduced fires and CO2 emissions (and also benefits to the local population) may outweigh the cost,12 but that part of the benefits which is going to the local people alone may be less than the cost to them.13 Even though the avoidance of fires is an important part of the benefits of peatland restoration (which according to one estimate is the avoidance of a loss of USD 19000/​ha14), local people enjoy the direct benefits of fire (as a way of clearing forests for other activities). It may be noted that clearing forests without the use of fire would increase labour and equipment costs.15

The benefits of effective peatland restoration to the world as a whole outweigh the cost of restoration, and that justifies global support for ongoing peatland restoration efforts. Hence, peatland burning is an international negative externality. Though the fire on each hectare may lead to the emission of 50 – 70 tonnes of CO2, most of this is borne by the global community as a whole (also in the long term) so, the local people may not have a great inclination to arrest this problem. Hence, peatland restoration requires global action.

The global community cannot blame Indonesian people for using peatlands in an environmentally unfriendly manner. In Indonesia and other contexts such as it, where the population pressure is high, many people depend on the land and natural resources for their survival. Even though there is a spread of education and some movement of people towards industrial jobs, most of the industries in the region also depend on land and natural resources.16 The industries which are less dependent on land/​natural resources (like in the service sector) are less developed in provinces which have major peatland areas.

Different kinds of lands in Indonesia (and responsibilities for restoration)

We can categorise lands which have peat deposits in Indonesia into four types. The first one is conservation areas (forests) which are directly controlled by the national ministry of environment and forests. Then there are forests for productive purposes which can be under the provincial department of environment and forests. There is the third type, which can be used for productive purposes and is leased out to private companies (there are also lands of this type which are not leased out). Finally, there are lands which are operated by communities and people.

The conservation of peatlands is expected to take place through different means in these different types of lands (Table). Though BRGM has a role in all these lands (say, for example, by providing financial support to the agency managing national parks and other conservation areas), its direct role is somewhat limited to those which are not controlled by other ministries and private companies. However, it is the only agency which is responsible for peatland restoration in areas used by communities and people.

Table: Peatlands under different control/ownership and strategies for restoration
Land typeMeans of restorationAgencyChallenges
Conservation areasBanning useNational Ministry of Environment and ForestsLimited resources of the ministry
Forest for productive purposesRegulationProvincial departmentsLimited resources; development needs/​compulsions
Concession AreaRegulationMinistries which deal with private investmentsEnforcement challenges
Land used by communities and peopleBRGMDirect supportLimited Resources

Efforts made by Indonesia

Indonesia is concerned about the negative impacts of forest fires on its own people and also the world as a whole. It has taken several steps to mitigate the problem. A notable part of forests in Indonesia is declared as conservation areas and it is under the management of the National Ministry of Environment and Forests. There is a notable reduction in deforestation in Indonesia.17 No productive activities are allowed in these conservation areas. The government has instituted a moratorium on leasing out peatland areas to private companies in 2011, which was renewed afterwards.18 There has been an increase in vigilance and patrolling in coordination with local communities so that there is a quicker collection of information on and actions against forest fires. Similarly, there are provincial governments which also control and regulate the use of forests. There are regulations on what private companies can do when they lease and use land in Indonesia for different purposes. Through the efforts of the private sector, which is monitored by the ministry of environment and forests, it is estimated that 3.64 million hectares (9 million acres) of peatlands have been restored by the end of 2020.19

Extinguishing fire as soon as possible requires a coordinated approach and cannot be accomplished by any one agency. Hence, there is a task force at the provincial level incorporating military, police and functionaries from various departments to respond to forest fires. There is also a coordination mechanism at the provincial level. It seems that the frequency of forest fires has declined in Indonesia during the last few years, though it is not known whether there could be an increase in fires due to weather-related events like El Niño.

However, the persistent occurrence of forest fires, mainly in the peatlands has encouraged the Government of Indonesia to take more focused actions. One such action is the formation of the Peatland Restoration Agency (or BRG initially, which has become BRGM later) in 2016 with the task of restoring 2.6 million hectares of degraded peatland (which included 1.7 million hectares inside concession areas and the rest outside it).20 The establishment of this agency itself reflects the political commitment at the national level to restore peatlands. This agency is expected to mobilise resources from international and national sources, coordinate with different governmental and non-governmental entities, and facilitate peatland restoration in different types of lands. In 2020, it got an extended mandate to restore 1.5 million acres of degraded mangroves too.21

Strategies of the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRGM)

Peatland deposits remained as they historically had since they have a high level of moisture. However, this moisture level comes down as part of human activities, for example, when a canal is made (the water in the soil deposit drains into the canal). This dryness of peatland can lead to its burning even if there is no forest over it. Factors such as these make the response to the burning of peatlands a lot more complex.

The BRGM essentially follows a three-pronged approach to the restoration of peatlands. The first is rewetting. There are areas where peatlands get drier during non-rainy seasons, and this is aggravated due to man-made actions, like the digging of canals. Hence, BRGM funds different agencies, including local communities, to create check-dams across these canals so that the water level goes up to keep the peatland wet.22 In addition, it funds the digging of deep wells so that there is enough water to be used to keep peatlands wet when there is a fire. The second strategy is revegetation. Since peatlands sustain only a few types of trees and plants, BRGM provides seedlings to local communities to enhance the vegetative cover over degraded peatlands. It also promotes pineapple cultivation as an intercrop for a certain duration as a way of ensuring some income for local people who help with the restoration of peatlands. The third strategy is revitalisation, which is aimed at enabling the livelihoods of local people in ways which do not lead to the destruction of peatlands. The cultivation of pineapple and its marketing to distant markets are part of this strategy. In addition, BRGM also supports local people to establish aquaculture units so that their dependence on peatlands decreases. We looked at projects of all these kinds. These are useful and can make a position impact. (There are limitations, and I discuss those in a following section.) One account states that ‘… by the end of 2020, the BRG had managed to restore 835,288 hectares (2.06 million acres) of peatland outside concession areas or 94% of its target.23 However, its impact in concession areas is limited.

Persisting challenges

Though different agencies of the Indonesian government including BRGM take actions to restore peatlands, these are not adequate. The BRGM has the resources to invest only in a part of the projects which are needed to keep the peatlands wet and to have replantation or revegetation over degraded land. In one location that we visited, the officials of BRGM constructed one canal block (check-dam) where, according to them, 4 or 5 such structures are needed. The cost of such check-dam is not low. Similarly, the support for livelihood activities is given only to a smaller share of local communities which may potentially use peatlands in a degrading manner. If BRGM has to invest money for all such purposes, it may require substantial additional resources.

Inadequate resources create other challenges too. Though a significant part of the land is recognised as national conservation areas (like national parks) to be managed by the National Ministry of Environment and Forests, and there is an increase in the presence of its personnel on the ground, this is not adequate to prevent illegal encroachment or other activities which degrade forests/​peatlands. Forests which are used for productive purposes, and which come under the provincial department of environment and forests also face a similar issue. These organisations in provinces like the Riau get financial support from BRGM for peatland restoration, but these resources are also not adequate. Though there are regulations on what private companies can do in forests/​peatlands, the efforts to monitor their activities are not adequate. Hence, they continue these interventions which are not suitable for peatlands. When blocking canals is recognised as a strategy to restore peatlands, there is a need to ensure that no more canals are dug for this purpose. This is also connected to the challenges of enforcing regulations.

The challenges are not merely due to inadequate resources. Since peatlands cover a major part of the fire hotspots, and the continued dependence of people on land (for small-scale agriculture or land-based industrial production, including plantations), the domestic political economy may work against the restrictions on the use of these lands. It will be difficult to have a complete ban on the use of peatland in such contexts. Even if there is such a ban, there will be political-economic pressures to allow certain activities, legally or illegally, even though some of these activities can lead to forest/​land fires. Moreover, such a political economy will make the cost of enforcement of regulations very high. Though BRGM is established with a greater focus on peatland restoration and under the direct control of the President of Indonesia, its authority and effectiveness over areas which are controlled by private companies seem limited.24

The development needs may also force the Government of Indonesia to make regulations which may work against the restoration of peatlands. It is noted that the programme to increase food production encourages the government and the ministry of environment and forests to adopt regulations which may lead to the clearing of protected forests.25 The need for economic recovery may also encourage the government to adopt laws which may facilitate timber extraction and other activities.26 Though environmentalists and activists may criticise the government of Indonesia for these steps, we can interpret these as reflections of the unavoidable developmental needs of the country. Moreover, the assumption that the adoption of conservation-oriented laws by the government would lead to the restoration of peatland is unrealistic due to the challenges in enforcing these laws, which again is a reflection of the problems of development that Indonesia faces. There are arguments for meaningful policies and governance reforms for successful peatland restoration.27 However, there is not enough reflection on the possible connection between development and governance and enforcement failures with respect to it.

Need for public investments for peatland restoration

Technical solutions for the mitigation of peatland fire require substantial investments, and these may yield benefits only over a long period of time. The protection of peatlands may require avoidance of drainage for agriculture, commercial forestry, peat extraction, and infrastructure development in these areas. Moreover, there may be a need to mitigate the effects of global warming to see that it is not leading to the drying of peatlands. It may require ensuring that the soil deposits remain wet as a whole throughout the year.28

Hence, there is a need for substantial investments if a governmental agency decides to conserve the remaining or the most vulnerable peatlands of the country. The national investments that are required for this purpose are huge. Like any other developing country, Indonesia faces multiple demands on its limited public resources and hence, it may not be able to allocate enough resources for peatland restoration.

The political-economy problem of peatland conservation in Indonesia

Unlike other global environmental problems, the peatland fire poses certain additional challenges. There are environmental losses due to peatland fires but a major part of these is borne by other countries and the world as a whole. Though local people also face losses due to it, these may be relatively smaller than the loss to the world as a whole. On the other hand, the direct and indirect costs of the conservation of peatlands are much higher for the local people, as discussed earlier. Even if the government of Indonesia is compelled to take action, it may face many challenges due to this situation (and also the higher opportunity cost of public resources). The per-capita income of most Indonesians may not enable them to have a higher willingness to pay for the restoration of peatlands. It may be noted that the development status of Indonesia may not enable its people to voluntarily contribute (make the effort) to restore peatlands for the benefit of the world when such restoration does not give them adequate benefits (or when the opportunity cost of restoration is high).

The severity of this problem may become clearer when we compare it with other such ecosystems, like rainforests or mangroves. Rainforests may give a higher income to local people if they are managed sustainably. Here, the challenge is to encourage people to move towards sustainable management. (However, such sustainable management of peatlands may not be that beneficial to local people). The fires in mangroves may not be that severe since by definition, these are located in wetlands. For all these reasons, the challenges to conserving peatlands could be more severe.

In a context where the cost and benefits to the local economy are tilted towards the degradation of peatlands, one approach is to argue for a greater focus on the sustainable livelihoods of local people as a strategy to restore peatlands.29 Though opportunities of this kind should be explored, our impression is that the possibilities in this regard are limited. Moreover, the need to have higher incomes may encourage people to depend on land/forest-based industries in the region since other industries which are less dependent on these natural resources are less developed. In my view, there is a need for adequate international support for the restoration of peatlands.

Challenges in using international finance for peatland restoration

We are likely to think that there is international money flowing to the sustainable management of peatlands in this era of carbon credits and when different countries are trying to find cheaper ways of reducing carbon emissions. However, the reality is different and there are major challenges for countries like Indonesia to tap this international finance.30 There are specificities of peatland restoration and/​or there may be a need for capacity-building of different stakeholders to see that domestic projects are designed and executed properly so that these can benefit from international finance that is available for the purpose. There are cases where the offers of international support have not contributed much to the restoration on the ground due to these problems.

The Government of Indonesia may have reservations about accepting all kinds of international support, especially when these are not transparent, or their long-term implications are unclear. These concerns also have to be taken into account in the approach of international actors.

Need international collaboration and pragmatic support

Countries which are more developed than Indonesia in the region also have to take greater responsibility of protecting peatlands in Indonesia. A notable part of the investment (or the ownership of companies) which causes land-fire in Indonesia is from these developed countries like Singapore, Malaysia (and even China). These countries should take proactive actions to encourage their companies and investors to avoid activities which can cause forest and land fires.

All these necessitate an approach which treats peatland restoration as a global issue and one that encourages and empowers the people of Indonesia to follow different strategies of conservation without having to bear their full costs.

Conclusion

Forest fires in Indonesia, especially those which occur over peatlands, have certain specificities, and these need to be understood widely. The incentives of local people (even in considering their possible environmental losses) may not enable peatland restoration. However, global environmental losses due to the degradation of peatlands are substantial. Hence, there is a need for global action considering that it would be difficult for a country like Indonesia to bear the full costs of mitigative actions. This is especially so when its people are dependent on land, the preservation of peatland yields only a smaller part of the benefits to them, and the cost (including the opportunity cost) of conservation is substantially higher for them.

Notes:

  1. https://​reliefweb​.int/​r​e​p​o​r​t​/​i​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​/​w​h​y​-​p​e​a​t​l​a​n​d​s​-​m​atter; https://​www​.unops​.org/​n​e​w​s​-​a​n​d​-​s​t​o​r​i​e​s​/​s​t​o​r​i​e​s​/​r​e​s​t​o​r​i​n​g​-​i​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​n​-​p​e​a​t​l​a​n​d​s​-​p​r​o​t​e​c​t​i​n​g​-​o​u​r​-​p​lanet; For a review of the studies on the nature of peatlands in Indonesia, see Warren M, Hergoualc’h K, Kauffman JB, Murdiyarso D, Kolka R. An appraisal of Indonesia’s immense peat carbon stock using national peatland maps: uncertainties and potential losses from conversion. Carbon Balance Manag. 2017 Dec;12(1):12. doi: 10.1186/s13021-01700802. Epub 2017 May 19. PMID: 28527145; PMCIDPMC5438333

  2. https://​gggi​.org/​w​p​-​c​o​n​t​e​n​t​/​u​p​l​o​a​d​s​/​2020​/​11​/​I​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​-​P​e​a​t​-​I​n​s​i​g​h​t​-​B​r​i​e​f​_​O​c​t​o​b​e​r​2020​_​t​e​n​t​a​t​i​v​e.pdf

  3. For example, Dohong, A., Abdul Aziz, A. & Dargusch, P. A Review of Techniques for Effective Tropical Peatland Restoration. Wetlands 38, 275 – 292 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-01810176

  4. Yuwati, et al (2021) Restoration of Degraded Tropical Peatland in Indonesia: A Review, Land, 10 (11), 1170; https://​doi​.org/​10​.​3390​/​l​a​n​d​10111170

  5. https://​g20​land​.org/

  6. One such report is https://​www​.cifor​.org/​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​s​/​p​d​f​_​f​i​l​e​s​/​i​n​f​o​b​r​i​e​f​/​6449​-​i​n​f​o​b​r​i​e​f.pdf; however, we looked at the experience of BRGM and others during the last three years and see the persisting challenges.

  7. https://​reliefweb​.int/​r​e​p​o​r​t​/​i​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​/​w​h​y​-​p​e​a​t​l​a​n​d​s​-​m​atter; https://​www​.unops​.org/​n​e​w​s​-​a​n​d​-​s​t​o​r​i​e​s​/​s​t​o​r​i​e​s​/​r​e​s​t​o​r​i​n​g​-​i​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​n​-​p​e​a​t​l​a​n​d​s​-​p​r​o​t​e​c​t​i​n​g​-​o​u​r​-​p​lanet; For a review of the studies on the nature of peatlands in Indonesia, see Warren M, Hergoualc’h K, Kauffman JB, Murdiyarso D, Kolka R. An appraisal of Indonesia’s immense peat carbon stock using national peatland maps: uncertainties and potential losses from conversion. Carbon Balance Manag. 2017 Dec;12(1):12. doi: 10.1186/s13021-01700802. Epub 2017 May 19. PMID: 28527145; PMCIDPMC5438333

  8. Warren M, Hergoualc’h K, Kauffman JB, Murdiyarso D, Kolka R. An appraisal of Indonesia’s immense peat carbon stock using national peatland maps: uncertainties and potential losses from conversion. Carbon Balance Manag. 2017 Dec;12(1):12. doi: 10.1186/s13021-01700802. Epub 2017 May 19. PMID: 28527145; PMCIDPMC5438333

  9. Fire is perceived as the most cost and labour-efficient method for removing vegetation. It also temporarily improves soil fertility, reduces acidity and reduces pests’. https://​www​.cifor​.org/​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​s​/​p​d​f​_​f​i​l​e​s​/​i​n​f​o​b​r​i​e​f​/​6449​-​i​n​f​o​b​r​i​e​f.pdf

  10. Kiely, L., Spracklen, D. V., Arnold, S. R., Papargyropoulou, E., Conibear, L., Wiedinmyer, C., … Adrianto, H. A. (2021). Assessing costs of Indonesian fires and the benefits of restoring peatland. Nature Communications, 12, 7044. doi:10.1038/s41467-021 – 27353‑x

  11. Fire is perceived as the most cost and labour-efficient method for removing vegetation. It also temporarily improves soil fertility, reduces acidity and reduces pests’. https://​www​.cifor​.org/​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​s​/​p​d​f​_​f​i​l​e​s​/​i​n​f​o​b​r​i​e​f​/​6449​-​i​n​f​o​b​r​i​e​f.pdf

  12. This is taken from https://​gggi​.org/​w​p​-​c​o​n​t​e​n​t​/​u​p​l​o​a​d​s​/​2020​/​11​/​I​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​-​P​e​a​t​-​I​n​s​i​g​h​t​-​B​r​i​e​f​_​O​c​t​o​b​e​r​2020​_​t​e​n​t​a​t​i​v​e.pdf

  13. To some extent, this is acknowledged: Economically viable and environmentally sustainable livelihood options for smallholders in Indonesian peatlands are limited, underdeveloped and urgently need to be enabled and expanded.’ https://​www​.cifor​.org/​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​s​/​p​d​f​_​f​i​l​e​s​/​i​n​f​o​b​r​i​e​f​/​6449​-​i​n​f​o​b​r​i​e​f.pdf

  14. Fire is perceived as the most cost and labour-efficient method for removing vegetation. It also temporarily improves soil fertility, reduces acidity and reduces pests’. https://​www​.cifor​.org/​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​s​/​p​d​f​_​f​i​l​e​s​/​i​n​f​o​b​r​i​e​f​/​6449​-​i​n​f​o​b​r​i​e​f.pdf

  15. Guyon, A. & Simorangkir, D. The Economics of Fire Use in Agriculture and Forestry — A preliminary Review for Indonesia. in Project FireFight South East Asia (Project FireFight South East Asia, 2002).

  16. This seems a problem of the industrialisation of Indonesia as noted by other commentaries. For example, see https://​unc​tad​.org/​s​y​s​t​e​m​/​f​i​l​e​s​/​o​f​f​i​c​i​a​l​-​d​o​c​u​m​e​n​t​/​B​R​I​-​P​r​o​j​e​c​t​_​R​P​07​_​e​n.pdf

  17. While absolute forest loss remains high (340,000 hectares/840,000 acres in 2018), the direction of travel appears unmistakable. Indonesia’s success is in part due to the robust measures President Jokowi’s government has put in place, including temporary bans on further expansion of oil palm plantations into forests and peatlands.’ https://www.wri.org/insights/5‑step-plan-protect-and-restore-indonesias-forests

  18. https://​www​.cifor​.org/​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​s​/​p​d​f​_​f​i​l​e​s​/​i​n​f​o​b​r​i​e​f​/​6449​-​i​n​f​o​b​r​i​e​f.pdf

  19. https://​news​.mongabay​.com/​2021​/​01​/​i​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​-​r​e​n​e​w​s​-​p​e​a​t​l​a​n​d​-​m​a​n​g​r​o​v​e​-​r​e​s​t​o​r​a​t​i​o​n​-​a​g​e​n​c​y​-​brgm/

  20. https://​news​.mongabay​.com/​2021​/​01​/​i​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​-​r​e​n​e​w​s​-​p​e​a​t​l​a​n​d​-​m​a​n​g​r​o​v​e​-​r​e​s​t​o​r​a​t​i​o​n​-​a​g​e​n​c​y​-​brgm/

  21. https://​news​.mongabay​.com/​2021​/​01​/​i​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​-​r​e​n​e​w​s​-​p​e​a​t​l​a​n​d​-​m​a​n​g​r​o​v​e​-​r​e​s​t​o​r​a​t​i​o​n​-​a​g​e​n​c​y​-​brgm/

  22. This is a solution tried out by other agencies too. For example, USAID and UNEP attempted such a strategy in the central Kalimantan part of Indonesia. https://​www​.unep​.org/​n​e​w​s​-​a​n​d​-​s​t​o​r​i​e​s​/​s​t​o​r​y​/​u​n​e​p​-​s​u​p​p​o​r​t​s​-​p​r​o​j​e​c​t​-​r​e​s​t​o​r​e​-​p​e​a​t​l​a​n​d​s​-​i​n​d​o​nesia

  23. https://​news​.mongabay​.com/​2021​/​01​/​i​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​-​r​e​n​e​w​s​-​p​e​a​t​l​a​n​d​-​m​a​n​g​r​o​v​e​-​r​e​s​t​o​r​a​t​i​o​n​-​a​g​e​n​c​y​-​brgm/

  24. This is noted by a few studies. For example, https://​iop​science​.iop​.org/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​/​10​.​1088​/1755 – 1315/​995/​1/​012068/​pdf

  25. https://​news​.mongabay​.com/​2020​/​11​/​i​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​-​p​r​o​t​e​c​t​e​d​-​f​o​r​e​s​t​-​a​g​r​i​b​u​s​i​n​e​s​s​-​f​o​o​d​-​e​s​t​a​t​e​-​r​e​g​u​l​a​tion/

  26. Apparently, the omnibus law clearly facilitates timber extraction and forest exploitation in the name of national economic recovery, citing a provision that scraps the requirement for all regions to maintain a minimum 30% of their watershed and/​or island area as forest area’. https://​news​.mongabay​.com/​2021​/​01​/​i​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​-​r​e​n​e​w​s​-​p​e​a​t​l​a​n​d​-​m​a​n​g​r​o​v​e​-​r​e​s​t​o​r​a​t​i​o​n​-​a​g​e​n​c​y​-​brgm/

  27. Dohong, A., Abdul Aziz, A. & Dargusch, P. A Review of Techniques for Effective Tropical Peatland Restoration. Wetlands 38, 275 – 292 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-01810176

  28. These technical solutions are discussed in detail in this report. https://​luk​.staff​.ugm​.ac​.id/​r​a​w​a​/​G​i​e​s​e​n​N​i​r​m​a​l​a​2018​T​r​o​p​i​c​a​l​P​e​a​t​l​a​n​d​R​e​s​t​o​r​a​t​i​o​n​R​e​p​o​r​t​I​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​F​o​r​B​R​G.pdf

  29. https://​forest​snews​.cifor​.org/​70022​/​p​e​a​t​l​a​n​d​-​r​e​s​t​o​r​a​t​i​o​n​-​i​n​-​i​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​-​w​h​y​-​d​o​-​p​e​o​p​l​e​-​m​a​t​t​e​r​?​f​nl=en

  30. Norway was supposed to pay the $56 million in 2020 under its previous climate agreement with Indonesia, but the Nordic country failed to pay, resulting in Indonesia terminating the original agreement.’ https://​news​.mongabay​.com/​2022​/​11​/​i​n​-​n​e​w​-​c​l​i​m​a​t​e​-​d​e​a​l​-​n​o​r​w​a​y​-​w​i​l​l​-​p​a​y​-​i​n​d​o​n​e​s​i​a​-​56​-​m​i​l​l​i​o​n​-​f​o​r​-​d​r​o​p​-​i​n​-​d​e​f​o​r​e​s​t​a​t​i​o​n​-​e​m​i​s​s​ions/

Author

V Santhakumar is Professor, Azim Premji University, Bangalore

Featured photo by Joanne Francis on Unsplash