The Jakarta Post
The government aims to restore 400,000 hectares of critical peatland in 2017, a lower target compared to 600,000 ha in 2016.
Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar has said the government will speed up canal and pond construction to maintain water levels in peatland areas.
"We need to keep the water level at least 40 centimeters below the surface. During the latest fire in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, the water level was only 50 to 60 centimeters from the surface," Siti said at the State Palace in Jakarta on Wednesday, adding that from 2009 to 2016 the permissible water level for palm oil plantations was 80 cm.
In 2016, 16,615 canals and 2,581 water ponds were built in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Presidential chief of staff Teten Masduki said Indonesia had 2 million ha of critical peatland that had to be rewet, of which 1.4 ha was located on concession land. The government therefore has to work with plantation companies.
"The companies have to build wells and use real-time water level detectors as an early warning system," Teten said.
Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) head Nazir Foead said palm oil companies actually objected to the new rule as high water levels would reduce productivity and because the water detectors were costly. However, the government will offer productive alternatives such as mixing oil palm with other plants like rubber or combining plantations with breeding livestock.(jun)
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