Indonesia - 09 April, 2021
During the long dry season, forest, plantation and land fires occur regularly in a number of regions in Indonesia, including in Ketapang, West Kalimantan, especially in Sungai Pelang landscape (Sungai Pelang, Sungai Besar and Pematang Gadung villages), which has a vast area of peatlands. "In recent years, the issue of forest and land fires (karhutla) has become a national issue and even become an issue between countries. With the vast area of peatlands in Ketapang, prevention of forest and land fires and sustainable peat landscape management practice is very important," said Budi Wardhana, Deputy Head of Planning and Cooperation of BRGM (Peatland and Mangrove Restoration Agency) in a focused discussion and multi-stakeholder consultation on “Prevention efforts of karhutbunla and improvement practice of sustainable peat landscape management in Ketapang District", which was organized by Tropenbos Indonesia in collaboration with the District Development Agency on Thursday, April 8, 2021.
According to Budi, prevention is better than coping because if fires is already burst, the costs to tackle is greater, the damage to the landscape is more severe, the smoke caused by fires is bad for health, disrupts economic activity, and destroys people’s opportunity to utilize natural resources. "Prevention is very important because it provides opportunities for better governance," he said.
Currently, through Presidential Decree No.120/2020, BRGM has a mandate from the government to restore 1.2 million peat ecosystems and 600,000 ha of mangrove ecosystems. "So we focus on consolidating activities with the parties, including by taking a hydrological approach to maintain the wetness of peatlands and improving land management so that the land is wet enough, either by improvement of land clearing or utilizing paludiculture technology by cultivating plants with suitable types of plants of the lands," he explained. All of this must be done altogether and followed up with improvement in community's economy. Among the 10 Peat Hydrology Units (KHGs) that are in the BRGM work program, 4 KHGs are in Pelang.
Meanwhile, Director of Tropenbos Indonesia, Edi Purwanto, said that the KHG in Pelang is a basin dominated by peatlands which are very vulnerable to drought. As experienced in 2014 and 2019, there were intense fires because this area was dominated by degraded peat. "The discussed technical plan will give a result in the forms of short-term and long-term action plans," he said.
The main strategy for preventing forest and land fires is by maintaining the wetness of the peat, and formulating action plans which involve collaboration between a multi-stakeholder inter-village working group (Formad Lingkar) and a district multi-stakeholder working group, as well as with BRGM which also has a work program in Pelang since 2021. So far, TI has provided support to maintain the wetness of the peat in Pelang by building 3 canal blockings around the Village Forest of Sungai Pelang, supporting the established Formad Lingkar, and next supporting the improvement efforts of land use and strengthening community business through capacity building and competition of community business which is climate friendly (KURRI).
Participants of the discussions were representatives from government agencies such as the Regional Government, Kejari, Bappeda, BPBD, Manggala Agni, KPH, Provincial Forestry Agency, Public Works and Spatial Planning Agency, GPNP, KSDA, LPHD, representatives from NGOs, and representatives from the private sector. During the discussion participants were divided into two groups where one group discussed on short-term prevention efforts, and the other group discussed on long-term prevention efforts. The results of the discussions are expected to contribute to strengthening collaboration between parties, improving coordination and synchronization of programs of the various stakeholders, so that efforts to prevent forest and land fires can run more effectively.
Tropenbos Indonesia developed the technical draft document discussed at this event as a form of support for Ketapang District Government which has a vision of "Ketapang Regency is free from peat karhutbunla, maintaining peatlands in wet ecosystems, and preserving the livelihoods of communities around peatlands in a sustainable manner.” Tropenbos Indonesia started preparing this document in mid-2020 and has gone through a number of activity stages, including peat canals mapping, surveys, stakeholders mapping, socialization and coordination between villages, establishing forums and work meetings, and conducting a number of coordination meetings with Bappeda.**