By Admin Pantau Gambut
Peatlands will benefit human life if they are properly maintained. However, many parties are still negligent in maintaining the sustainability of peatlands and causing the people who live around them to feel the impact.

The granting of management permits on peatlands often creates conflicts with people who have lived in the area for a long time. For example, tenurial conflicts are disputes over claims to control, manage the utilization, and use of forest areas. 

Most of the tenurial conflicts are caused by differences in data and interests between the conflicting parties to the detriment of one party, especially the people living in the area. Forest Watch Indonesia estimated that 17.6 – 24.4 million hectares of forest areas are in conflicts related to claims of state forest, claims of indigenous peoples/local communities, and permits. Moreover, based on Epistema's study, around 500,000 peat farmers were removed from their lands due to the expansion of plantation concessions.

Conflicts between communities and concessions occur due to changes in the environment caused by the company's activities. These environmental changes include frequent forest fires, changes in river water quality, floods, and droughts.

An example of environmental change is felt by the people of Lebak Belanti who live in the Sibumbung River-Betok River Peat Hydrological Unit, South Sumatra Province. The community has experienced floods for 11 years because their peatland can no longer store water and water management is controlled by a company.

Conversion of peatlands also causes frequent forest and land fires that make air quality deteriorate and can even be very dangerous if inhaled, especially for vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, toddlers, the elderly, and people with lung/heart disorders. 

In the short term, the smoke that spreads in the air can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, causing watery eyes and nose, nausea, headaches, and even upper respiratory tract infections. Meanwhile, based on researches done by Columbia University and Harvard University researchers, long-term exposure to smoke from forest and land fires is predicted to cause premature deaths of up to 36,000 people per year in all affected areas if peat restoration and forest and land fire prevention efforts are not carried out.

So, this is the concern of Pantau Gambut until now. Pantau Gambut continues to strive for immediate restoration of peatlands according to orders and policies on peatland management. Hopefully, peatlands will be restored and the community will no longer be affected by environmental disasters due to negligence in land management.*


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