Peat hydrological units containing good forest cover not to be opened up for palm oil, agrees expert

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - A peatland hydrological unit typically consists of both peat and non-peat forests. An Indonesian regulation stipulates that at least 30 percent of a peatland hydrological unit needs to be conserved, while some palm concessions located in peatland hydrological units, particularly in Papua, still enjoy very good forest cover.

In an interview with Nyoman Suryadiputra, Director of the Wetlands International-Indonesia Programme on Wednesday (11 May), foresthints.news asked him about policy action that needs to be taken for existing palm oil concessions with good forest cover located within peatland hydrological units.

If we look at the regulation, at least 30 percent of the total entire peatland hydrological unit is to be protected, so for example 30 hectares out of a total of 100 hectares, Nyoman explained.

Nyoman was eager to point out that there were various other factors, outside of the specified 30 percent, that needed to be considered in terms of protection.

Beyond the 30 percent, we need to look at the protection of other things such as genetic resources. A peatland hydrological unit should also be extended to areas outside the 30 percent, Nyoman insisted.

He suggested that a closer inspection of certain passages of the regulation in question would reveal scope for different interpretations and applications.

A peatland ecosystem with a cultivation function can have its status changed to become a protected peatland ecosystem. The person entitled to do this is the Minister of the Environment and Forestry, but it might also be approved upon request from a governor or regent. They should be looking at doing this in areas of primary and secondary forest at risk of clearances and consequent environmental destruction. Preventing such destruction is a matter of ecological urgency, he urged.

The Indonesian regulation, according to Nyoman, provides for the protection of peatland hydrological units with good forest cover.

"Areas with good forest cover lying within a peat hydrological unit should be protected against clearance and environmental destruction, Nyoman said.

He encouraged relevant stakeholders to appeal to local authorities in affected areas to propose to the minister that areas with good forest cover be converted into protected zones.

I completely agree that areas of good forest cover in a peat hydrological unit must not be opened up for palm oil expansion. There is a need to protect those forests for the sake of ecological urgency. All areas with good forest cover in every peat hydrological unit, whether primary or secondary, must be fully protected, but on a legal basis."

He argued that the President's announcement on a palm oil expansion moratorium allows for increased productivity on existing palm oil plantations and no more forested land cleared for new plantations, especially in peatland hydrological units on the island of Papua.

I hope that existing palm oil plantations are optimized. Productivity on palm oil plantations varies widely. There is still great scope for enhanced productivity. This would stop people saying that we need to clear forested land for new plantations to increase production capacity. Let's optimize productivity in this way, Nyoman exhorted.