Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Experts urge govt to counter allegations of carbon flux

Thursday, June 28, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Experts recommended Wednesday that the country respond to the international community's allegations that Indonesia is the world's third largest carbon dioxide emitter due to the burning of peatland areas.

A recent calculation of emissions by the Netherlands-based Wetlands International and Delft Hydraulics has placed Indonesia behind only the United States and China. Indonesia has jumped to third place from 21st position in 2005.

"I don't know how they came to this conclusion. We have to be suspicious because we are suspected now. We have never calculated our own carbon emissions before," Bambang Setiadi, deputy head of research, science and technology development at the Research and Technology Ministry, told a seminar.

At the seminar, attended by peatland experts from universities, government organizations and NGOs, it is expected that strategies to advise policymakers in Indonesia and Malaysia on the restoration, rehabilitation and sustainable utilization of peatlands will be devised.

Bambang said Indonesia needs to prepare solid grounds on which to counter the new statistics, especially at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Bali in December this year.

Contradicting Bambang's presentation, Herwin Simbolon, a forest ecologist from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said LIPI had been conducting research on peatland in Central Kalimantan for a decade, and calculated that the international count on the country's carbon flux was likely accurate.

"We may be debating methodology, but the most important thing is to look for the ways of solving the problem and not just prepare for defending ourselves in the international forum," he added.

Tropical peatland covers approximately 45 million hectares, 12 percent of global peatland. Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam contain nearly 70 percent of this resource. Indonesia, with 22 million ha, has around one half of all tropical peat.

Peatland in Southeast Asia is recognized as an important reservoir of biodiversity. It exhibits a range of important ecological and natural resource functions, including carbon storage.

Data from LIPI show that the carbon flux in Central Kalimantan has sharply increased since the conversion of one million ha of peatland into rice fields from 1995 to 1997, and especially with the construction of large canals throughout the area.

The project was part of former president Soeharto's plan to convert 1.4 million ha of peatland in the province into agricultural land. The project was later abandoned.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued a decree on March 16 this year to expedite the rehabilitation of the converted peatland in Central Kalimantan. The project has been allocated around Rp 9 trillion (US$989 million) from the state budget.

Central Kalimantan Governor Agustin Teras Narang, who also spoke at the seminar, said the rehabilitation might not fully restore the self-regulatory mechanisms of water absorption on the peatland.

"This means that we have to close some canals that have caused the peatland to lose its natural function of absorbing water. This has caused floods in the rainy season and droughts in the dry season," Narang said. (02)

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