Indonesia — The government is drafting a regulation on peatland protection that would allow businesses to utilize the areas despite mounting calls for a moratorium to conserve the areas to prevent the release of emissions.
Article 16 of the draft regulation stipulates peatland areas could be used for at least 10 purposes including, pastures, plantations, fisheries, residential, mining and transmigration areas.
It says any people operating businesses in peatland areas should manage a minimum water level to prevent fires that would lead to the huge release of emissions into the atmosphere.
The regulation aims to minimize damage to peatland ecosystems, Masnellyarti Hilman, deputy minister for environmental damage control at the Environment Ministry told reporters on Wednesday.
It would be wrong if we were prohibited to utilize peatland.
The draft, which has been submitted to the ministrys legal and human rights affairs, says peat domes with thickness of more than 3 meters would be categorized as protected areas and would be restricted.
It also stipulates that businesspeople should set aside 30 percent of its peatland area to be restored.
Currently, the government has no specific regulation on peatlands, which are believed to contain huge stocks of greenhouse gas.
The ministry predicted Indonesia has 30 million hectares of peatland mostly in Sumatra, Papua and Kalimantan. A number of plantations currently operate on peatland.
A study by the the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) last year recommended a moratorium on peatland conversion to meet pledged emissions cuts to tackle climate change.
Bappenas predicted damaged peatlands contributed to about 1 billion tons of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year, half of the countrys total emissions.
Indonesia has pledged to cut emissions by 26 percent by 2020 to help slow the effects of climate change. Activists said opening peatlands risked the release of huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Wetlands International asked the government to review the draft on fears it would only encourage people to open business on peatland.
It is not in line with the governments commitment to cut emissions, I Nyoman Suriyadiputra from Wetlands International said.
A study from Wetlands said that Kalimantan, with 5.8 million hectares of peatland could store some 40 gigatons of CO2.
It said that Central Kalimantan alone, with 3 million hectares of peatland in Kapuas, Ketingan and Kahayan Hilir regencies, has the capacity to store 22 gigatons of emissions.
One effective way to reduce emissions in Central Kalimantan is by blocking canals to prevent fires, he said. The Greenpeace earlier protested the destruction of peatlands in Riau, which they say stored around 2 gigatons of carbon, with peat layers of more than 15 meters.