Indonesia’s peatlands a testground for REDD+

From Ecos magazine, June 2012:

Once home to one of the world’s largest unbroken stretches of tropical peatlands, Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan region has suffered badly from environmental mismanagement in recent years. Its devastated peatlands are now the focus of an Australian–Indonesian restoration effort that is using the region as a demonstration project for reducing global carbon emissions.

By any measure, Indonesia’s Mega Rice Project of 1996 was a spectacular flop. Initiated by former president Suharto, the aim was to transform around one million hectares of tropical peatland in central Kalimantan into rice paddies. This meant eliminating the forest and all its native animal residents – including a large population of orang-utans – and draining the swampy peat using a network of canals.

In 1997, the combination of dried-out peat, drought, and fires lit to clear the land of trees set large areas of peat on fire, casting a huge pall of smoke over much of the country. In the end, the Mega Rice Project was abandoned without a single rice paddy being planted.

The ruined peatlands of Kalimantan now present a unique opportunity for a climate change mitigation approach known as REDD+, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. The ‘+’ represents additional activities, such as reforestation and sustainable management of forests. Read more..

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