The Jakarta Post
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo ordered the local administration of Meranti Island regency in Riau to restore the drainage in peatlands to prevent peatland fires, a project that may see nationwide implementation.
The move was made after he visited a fire-affected community in Sungai Tohor village, East Tebing Tinggi in Meranti Island, where he got his hands dirty by joining locals in damming a canal to re-wet the peatland.
'I have told the Meranti regency to continue building dams in the canals. Dam construction is very important because it can control water and keep the peatland wet,' Jokowi said before leaving for Jakarta.
He said if damming efforts can stop peatland fires in the following year, it would be implemented it in other provinces such as in Jambi, South Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Acting Riau Governor Andi Rachman said he would immediately follow up the order as the president had promised a special allocation funding (DAK) to finance the construction of other dams in the province.
Jokowi said he had also asked the Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar to evaluate companies that cause environmental impacts from the conversion of peatland areas to monoculture plantations.
The inspection was scheduled on Wednesday but bad weather delayed the plan and forced Jokowi and his entourage to spend a night in Pekanbaru.
Environmental activists welcomed Jokowi's moves to protect peatlands.
'We look to Jokowi now to take clear action to stop expansion by industry into peatlands, to crack down on illegality and to support the permanent protection of peatland landscapes,' Longgena Ginting, Greenpeace Indonesia's Country Director, said in a statement.
Deputy head of the Association of Indonesian Forest Concessionaires (APHI) Irsyal Yasman claimed his members have applied water management technology that could adjust the height of water according to the land contour.
Meanwhile, President Director of PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) Kusnan Rahmin also claimed that the company's approach to managing peatland concessions was based on the best available science.
'We manage water levels through water management by building integrated canals in accordance with a scientific approach. It protects the peatland. We have installed an automatic water gate to control the water,' he said in a statement.
He said effective peatland management required a 'total landscape' approach, which involves protection and buffering of central peat domes to guard against drainage impacts.
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