Peatland conversion

There is a prevalent perception that peat is useless. This belief explains why forests and peatlands are destroyed or drained, and subsequently held responsible as a major cause of forest and peatland fires.  The peatland fire hazard, in turn, causes other peat ecosystems to be destroyed and dried out. This affects the life of other peat ecosystems.

Peatland conversions lead to peatland degradation ©Ardiles Rante - HKV/Pantau Gambut
Peatland conversions lead to peatland degradation ©Ardiles Rante - HKV/Pantau Gambut

Peatlands are often regarded as useless land that can be drained and converted.  For example, the Peatland Development Project (Mega Rice Project) in Central Kalimantan, which converted up to 1,457,100 hectares of peatland into paddy fields.  

This project ultimately failed due to peatland management that was not in accordance with peat-friendly principles and left severe damage. This peatland degradation triggered massive forest fires in 1997-98 and the following years. As a result of these fires, the country suffered a loss of almost 10 billion USD.

In addition, the limited availability of mineral lands and the growth of high market value industries such as oil palm and acacia pushed for more and more peatland conversion. However, the peatland that will be used must first be drained by making canals or waterways, resulting in degradation.

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