Kalimantan, Indonesia’s portion of Borneo island, is no stranger to peatland fires. In early July, one of its provinces, Central Kalimantan, declared a state of emergency after over 700 blazes were detected there.
The fires, usually started by farmers looking to cheaply clear land, are a right of Indonesia’s dry season. They produce a cloud of haze that can blanket villages, cities and even neighbouring countries, a health challenge during normal times, much less a global pandemic. At the same time, repeated fires dry out the land, making future fires more likely and harder to extinguish. They also reduce biodiversity and slowly rob the land of its ability to support crops, making it more difficult for farmers to make a living.
These problems are nowhere more evident than in the Dusun Hilir District in Central Kalimantan, where tens of thousands of people have been affected by fires in recent years. This area, rich in peat, has seen land degradation due to logging, forest fires, land clearance and peat drainage. These activities have led to a decrease in land quality and put peatlands at risk of burning in the August-September dry season when the fire risk is greatest. (Once a peatland fire starts, it can be very difficult to extinguish, as peat can smoulder up to 12 metres below ground.)
Read the full story on UNEP here.
The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, led by the United Nations Environment Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and partners covers terrestrial as well as coastal and marine ecosystems. A global call to action, it will draw together political support, scientific research and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration.
For more information, please contact Johan Kieft: Johannes.Kieft@un.org