WWF urges Indonesian govt to be more serious about protecting peatlands

PHOTO: WWF Indonesia

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia, an international NGO concerned with conservation, research and environmental conservation, called on the government to be more serious about protecting peatlands by reviewing its developmental policies in those key areas.

"Preventive measures need to be taken continuously to reduce the potential of land and forest fires in the future," WWF Indonesia's manager programme for Central Kalimantan, Rosenda Chandra Kasih, said as quoted by Antara in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Rosenda said wildfires affecting Central Kalimantan and several other provinces in Kalimantan and Sumatra every year were due to the government's lack of preparedness to anticipate the droughts.

She said the development of dams needed to be conducted as early as possible to maintain the stability of land humidity and water from inside peatlands throughout the year. It would be less likely for fires to happen in peatlands if there was more water there.

"This effort must be accompanied with peat forest restoration activities to recover its aquatic system," said Rosendra.

WWF Indonesia's conservation director Arnold Sitompul said the government needed to carry out an integrated approach together with regional administrations and local communities to prevent land and forest fires.

"[The government] needs to prepare regional administrations and local people by establishing community groups concerned with fires," he said.

Arnold said most hot spots were in peatlands and that so far the goverment's prevention and control efforts had not yet been effective.

As of Wednesday, thick smoke has been blanketing Kalimantan. In the past week, the air quality in Palangkaraya and Pontianak has repeatedly dropped to a level deemed dangerous to human health.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said on its official website that Palangkaraya's particulate concentration data still stood at a level deemed dangerous for health (463 µg/m3).

Land and forest fires have continued to occur in Kalimantan despite President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's visit to directly monitor fire extinguishing efforts in Central and South Kalimantan. Schools have given their students a vacation for two weeks. The Central Kalimantan health department has recorded that at least 15,000 people suffered from acute respiratory infections due to smoke in September.

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