Stop open burning in Belait Belait – for peat sake

Stop open burning in Belait Belait – for peat sake

25 February 2010

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Brunei —  Bruneians can make a huge difference by stopping the practice of open burning to conserve the country’s valuable peat swamp forest, which is vastly located at Kuala Balai in the Belait District.

“Brunei has an area of 80,000 hectares of peat swamp forest. If Bruneians don’t light up any fires, we can save a lot of peat swamps and that’s already a big achievement,” said Dr Jonathan Davies, the Lead Project Executant of the Rehabilitation of Peat Swamp Forest project under the Heart of Borneo during a special talk for science undergraduates at the Universiti of Brunei Darussalam, yesterday.

Also present were representatives from the Survey Department and Standard Chartered Bank (SCB).
The talk was on the action plan for Peatland within the “Heart of Borneo” areas in the context of rehabilitating degraded Peatland and reducing carbon emission.

Dr Davies said that draining a peat swamp for development will cause it to lose its water storage capacity, halting one of the peat swamp forests’ most important functions in Brunei’s economy. Draining will also make the land susceptible to fires.

“The water supply for oil and gas industry and domestic use is derived from Belait River. If you drain the peat swamp, there would be no water storage capacity.

“During dry periods, the river level may be very low and they might not be able to get enough water for nearby industrial processes and consumption such as the Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) or Brunei Liquidfied Natural Gas (BLNG).

“Carbon in peat swamp may become great value for the future in-terms of attracting investors of
carbon,” he said. This matter is yet to be discussed with investors in the near future.

Dr Davies also made an assessment of the status of peatland from Kuala Balai that he describes the lower Belait valley to headwaters of Belait River. He also revealed that the largest peat swamp forest is located at Kampong Badas.

Among other disturbances to peatland in Brunei includes logging in the area of ‘Alan Bunga’ in Belait District, sand mining, insects attacks, lightning strikes and fire-affected areas.

He also estimated that 215.72 megatonnes of carbon are currently stored in Brunei’s peatland. “The carbon store is relatively low but the sink capacity is relatively intact,” he added.

He highlighted that “intact Brunei Peatland is estimated to be sequestering 528,480 metric tonnes or 0.53 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year.”

The benefits of intact Peatland are: huge carbon store with accumulated carbon as peat and high water storage capacity; maintain minimum flow in river during dry periods and prevent saline water intrusions.

Dr Davies concluded that climate change will negatively affect the intact peatlands in most coastal areas.

“Increased dry periods equal more carbon emission and risk of fire and also smog from intact peatlands as well as sea level rise which will increase susceptibility to flooding in coastal areas.

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