Indonesia’s the largest tropical peat landowner inIndonesia’s the largest tropical peat landowner in

Indonesia’s peatlands occupy the fourth position as the largest peatland in the world after Canada, Russia, and the United States. Indonesia has peatlands area of 20 million hectares, Canada 170 million hectares, Russia 150 million hectares, and United States 40 million hectares (Agus and Subiksa, 2008).  Southeast Asia became the largest tropical peat landowner in the region the world with an area of 56% of the world’s total tropical peatlands. Indonesia itself accounted for 47% of the world’s tropical peatlands and peat swamp forests, making it a country the largest peat owner in Southeast Asia.Peat swamp forests are tropical ecosystems where saturated soils or frequent flooding prevents deadleaves and wood from fully decomposing. As this organic material slowly accumulates, it retains more water, becoming a giant sponge that holds in the moisture.  Peat swamps eventually form a dome of wet organic material. Indonesian peat swamp forests cycle and store globally significant amounts of carbon. They regulate water across the landscape also salt and fresh-water transitions in coastal areas. They host unique species such as orangutans and provide habitats for migratory birds. Local people traditionally benefit from peat swamp forests for timber to build their houses, wild food and fish to supplement their diet, water and medicinal plants. These peatlands are critical in regulating global climate, conserving biodiversity and sustaining water resources and local livelihoods. However, many peatlands in the region are being affected by exploitation and unsustainable management practices. Large scale peatland drainage and conversion is responsible for much of the fires and transboundary haze which is one of the most serious regional environmental problems (Atmadja et al. 2017).In 2015, forest and peatland fires occur in large escalations. The El Nino factor, as one of the factors causing higher ocean temperatures in the southern waters to cause extreme global weather changes and deforestation practices through land-burning systems has made major fires in Indonesia. More than 2.6 million hectares of forests, peatlands and other lands are burned.World Bank (2015) estimated that the economic losses suffered by Indonesia reach more than USD 16 billion, which includes agriculture, forestry, transportation, trade, industry, tourism and other sectors. Environmental losses associated with biodiversity loss are estimated to be worth around USD 295 million. Thousands of hectares of orangutan habitat and other endangered species are destroyed.Air quality during high burning periods in villages near the fires regularly exceed the maximum level of 1000 on the international Pollutant Standard Index (PSI). This is more than three times the amount considered “hazardous”. Businesses and schools across the region close due to the haze, approximately 5 million students have been impacted by school closures in 2015. The haze from peatlands fires caused disrupt commercial flight and cancellation of various commercial flights at the local airports. The damages caused by this haze disaster is really severe.The year of 2015 was not the first to experience a great fire, previously in 1997 also happened. Forest and peatland fires actually a legacy problem from lack of peat management in the past. Forests were depleted as the result of previous large government programs (e.g. transmigration, mega-rice project), unmonitored legal logging and extensive illegal logging. Drainage canals were built for agriculture development and transporting logs. These canals provided access deep into remaining unlogged forests, dried extensive areas of peatlands and exacerbated fires.In 2011, Indonesian government issued a policy of moratorium on concession permit of peatland utilization. But there are weaknesses of those policy: no involvement of other important ministries such as the Ministry of Agriculture; the policy still including protected forests and conservation reserved and exclude secondary forests as territories delays in granting new permits; and it creates a variety of exceptions, weaken the purpose of deferring new permissions, such as exceptions to vital project development. In practice, even though the new licensing deferment policy is already applied for six years, the policy could not yet fully address issues relating to primary natural forest governance and peatlands. This matter shows that the government has no clear direction on environment protection issues, in this case swamp forests and peatlands.Permit for forest conversion for oil palm plantation companies, plantations industry, and mining, as well as other national projects, still continue published, resulting in continued pressures and damage to the forest and peatlands as well as widespread conflict. Reduced forest cover and forest and peatland fires still occur in the area of postponement of new licenses. Delay granting policy and also does not provide a space for settling land conflicts between communities custom, local government and company, for protection, inauguration and the reinforcement of their rights and management space has not been fully implemented. (Koalisi Masyarakat Sipil, 2017) The main problem of this damaged peat ecosystem in Indonesia is lack of consolidation of sustainable peat management policies and lack of attention to the uniqueness of the fragile peat ecosystem. Part of the weakness in Indonesia are: the utilization of peatlands that have not been supported by adequate research results, unfinished spatial management, sustainable peat management by local value and weak regulation implementation (including law enforcement) caused by the political and economic interests behind the legislation itself.To overcome this, the government has worked with responsiveness and take strong steps towards a long-term solution, through moratorium to halt drainage and development on peatlands, a program to restore degraded peatlands, and more prevention-focused approach to managing fire.On early 2016, the President of Indonesia establish the Peat Restoration Agency (Badan Restorasi Gambut, BRG). As a non-structural institution responsible to President, under the coordination of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, BRG is mandated to coordinate and facilitate the restoration of around two million hectares of peatlands in seven priority provinces, namely Jambi, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, Riau, South Sumatra and Papua until 2020.There are four main tasks of Peat Restoration Agency: to facilitate the recovery of degraded peatlands, to design (including mapping work) and develop sustainable peatlands utilization, to promote community participation in peatlands restoration implementation, and to facilitate research to support sustainable peatlands ecosystem management (BRG, 2016).  The best strategy to restoration of peatlands is actually doing fire prevention. This means, peat that has been degraded and dried must be restored to its ecological and hydrological function.  Associated with construction of the restoration, BRG has created a guide and standard operating procedures of the infrastructure development for rewetting the peatlands (bulkhead channel/canal blocking), seedling nursery, replanting on peatlands, and installation of drill pipe wells (deep wells). With this guide, the parties which will do the construction infrastructure of hydrological restoration peat can have same standard operation work (BRG, 2017). Efforts to restore peatlands in this case includes three things: re-wetting, replanting, and upgrading the welfare of the local community. At site level, BRG with the Peat Restoration Regional Team (Tim Regional Gambut Daerah, TRGD), a number non-governmental organizations, and the communities has manage peat ecosystem protection by making boreholes, channel canals, and developing alternatives wet-peat-friendly economy. BRG does not merely do physical restoration activities on peatlands. Together with ministries and related institutions, BRG strives to synchronize a number of policies and regulations to strengthen the agenda restoration of peat ecosystems. BRG also compiled a number of regulations on restoration procedures, verification rules of restoration map, and restoration planning on business entities.The important key to determine the target of peat restoration is mapping. The plans and actions of government programs are often not effective because there is no clear target. Therefore, BRG invites researchers, professionals and experts to jointly formulate the target map of the restoration area and restoration activities in accordance with the territory in a clear direction. This mapping is also expected to be one of the inputs for One Map Policy that proclaimed by the President of Indonesia, so there would be no more land issues, spatial and overlapping areas that would lead to many problems in the future (Koalisi Masyarakat Sipil, 2017). The mapping established by BRG is based on the conditions of peatland utilization. In this map also found that from 2.49 million hectares peatlands restoration target, as much as 1.4 million hectares are in the area of company’s concession. The restoration fund in this concession area should be borne by the companies because the government funds only can be used to restore peatlands are degraded outside concession companies. But BRG will give support as well as supervision in the restoration process (BRG, 2017). It would be challenging task for government as the involved companies are not very happy with the government’s plan, even though it has stated that it will pay for it. Companies are asking for incentive-wise. There have been suggestions to offer alternative land in exchange for the peatlands, but it is not easy to find particular area that meet the need.  Restoring the peatlands means also restoring human dignity of society. Peatlands recovery also must improve welfare the surrounding community. Therefore, Indonesian government through BRG try as early as possible to avoid social clash, and adjusting with the aspirations and needs of the community. To achieve this, social safeguard framework policies needed. There is a consultation procedure for get public approval of construction and other restorations action programs. Indonesian government in search for environmental local practice of peat friendly agriculture. There are many people who work near or in the concession peatland areas. So providing alternative livelihoods for communities in these peatland areas is important. For example, farmers in Tanjung Jabung Barat, Jambi Province successfully cultivate coffee on the peat area of 2,500 hectares. In the Sungai Tohor, Riau Islands, the community also successfully cultivate and produce sago plant in the field peat. While in the District Pulang Pisau, Central Kalimantan, the people of Gohong Village succeed planting dragon fruit on peatlands (BRG, 2017). These local practices show there is a great chance to integrate the conservation efforts and restoration of peatlands, while increasing welfare community. The local people should avoid depending on the palm oil commodity as it is now, because actually this massive oil palm plantation is not peat friendly and could leads to damage of natural peat ecosystem.With support of local experts, the local also encouraged to adopt Burnless Land Farming (Pertanian Lahan Tanpa Bakar). Previously, many local farmer were using the old way to open the new farming with burning method because it is the easiest and less cost for them. But since the haze disaster in 1997 and 2015, they have more awareness now to environment risk.BRG also started doing preparation and raising participation of villagers through Peat Concern Village Program (Desa Peduli Gambut, DPG). BRG recorded that there are approximately 1,205 villages located at 2.49 million hectares area restoration. In the first year, BRG started doing community preparation in 105 villages which covers the village area of 806,312 hectares (BRG, 2017). Peat Concern Village Program needs more coordination and facility of development programs at location of peat restoration priorities. This program should be developed by a landscape-based villages peatlands ecosystem. The adjacent villages should be cooperate in a rural peatlands to make sure the sustainable peatlands restoration policy is on the right track. Central government should also encourage local governments to take part actively. For example, by giving rewards within the form of fiscal transfer to the region that has successfully implemented protection and sustainable management of peatlands. The role of local government could not be underestimated. Local government have potential to become countervailing power against the national authority because they are frequently near the scene of disasters and contaminations, it should work as a critical guard dog over central government and private industry (Nakamura, 1992). At last, the most important thing in policy implementation is law enforcement. Rogue companies and perpetrators of peat swamp forest fire must be done explicitly to create a deterrent effect so that fires and haze disaster are no longer repeated. Indonesian government response on this issue should be appreciated, such as arresting the perpetrators, revocation and freezing of company permits that involved in petlands fires. But it is not enough, the greatest challenge is how central and local governments can monitor and control sustainable land-clearing activities by taking into account the analysis of environmental impacts as a whole, not just seeking revenues from the plantation sector alone. It needs a sustained commitment and involvement of all actors to unify communication and trust so that current issues do not continue in the future. The law enforcement should not stop on local level. It should include investigating the flow of money from Malaysia and Singapore stakeholders that is being used to invest in illegal mid-size palm oil plantations. As neighbor countries whose borders are closest to Indonesia, they were also deeply affected by the haze disaster. Therefore, the handling of environment policy also needs to be brought to the ASEAN level. There were several community-based peatland projects executed in collaboration with Malaysia and Singapore. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is working on this issue through the ‘ASEAN haze-free vision in 2020’ program and ASEAN Peatlands Management Initiatives (APMI). In global level, Indonesia is considered to be the most compliant country for the Paris COP21, as it has become the first nation to conduct massive peat restoration activities and is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to one giga ton (“Indonesia Becomes Global Model”, 2017). To be the most progressive country in terms of the policies to manage peatlands area, means other countries will be looking at Indonesia on how it would be implementing conservation policies and arrangement points. It is not an easy task, but could be done with support and cooperation with other countries (for example joint countries in Global Peatland Initiatives (GPI) and global entities such as United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).