Approximately 25 million hectares of peatlands are found in Southeast Asia, of which, Indonesia has about 70%. These peatlands provides a home for over 3,000 plant species and also unique animal species especially fishes and dragonflies. Many of these species are only found in peat swamps. Peatlands constitute the most important terrestrial ecosystem for carbon storage, equal to all other terrestrial biomass and twice as much as all forest biomass. Drainage, drying and degradation and burning of peatlands in ASEAN are estimated to lead to emissions of 2 billion tonnes of CO2 per year, or equivalent to almost 4% of global fossil fuel emission, or equivalent to total emission from Germany, UK and France in 2012.
Fires in peat soils have been identified as a major contributor to transboundary haze pollution in the region. Drainage and unsustainable management practices have made peatlands vulnerable to fire. Peat soil, which is comprised of partly decomposed plant material, can easily burn as soon as the water is drained out and the peat dries up. Peat fires are difficult to suppress as they occur under the ground. Peat fires also produce very thick smoke haze and release a high amount of carbon. The land and forest fires in Southeast Asia have destroyed more than 3 million hectares of peatlands.
The ASEAN Environment Ministers in June 2002 discussed actions to be taken for fire prevention and control in peatlands. The ASEAN Peatland Management Initiative (APMI) was developed with various partners and endorsed by the Senior Officials in February 2003. Under the APMI, the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy (APMS) covering the period 2006-2020 has been developed to guide the countries to sustainably manage peatlands and reduce fires and associated haze within the framework of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.
The APMS was endorsed by ASEAN Environment Ministers in 2006 and updated in 2013 to guide actions to support management of peatlands in the region in the period of 2006-2020. The APMS was prepared due to the pressing need for wise use and sustainable management of peatlands as well as the emerging threat of peatland fire and its associated haze to the economy and health of the region, and its possibility of contributing to global climate change. The APMS was developed within the framework of the ASEAN Peatland Management Initiative (APMI) and the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.
The strategy primarily focuses on the following 4 objectives: (i) enhance awareness and knowledge on peatlands; (ii) address transboundary haze pollution and environmental degradation; (iii) promote sustainable management of peatlands; and (iv) enhance and promote collective regional cooperation on peatland issues. The strategy sets out operational objectives that would contribute to the delivery of one or more of the areas above to serve as guidance for ASEAN Member States and other implementing bodies and collaborating partners through specific actions and timeframe for these actions. The strategy can also play a greater role to provide the formal cooperation among ASEAN Member States to solve peat-related problems in the region.
ASEAN Member States will be responsible to facilitate the implementation of the strategy at national level and to help ensure that the general and operational objectives are met. This would be done through the development and implementation of National Action Plans (NAPs).
As part of the implementation of APMS at the regional level, ASEAN implemented the ASEAN Peatland Forests Project (APFP) (2009-2014) funded by Global Environment Facility and SEApeat funded by the European Union, to demonstrate, implement and upscale integrated management of peatlands in Southeast Asia through mainstreaming and improved governance, strengthened capacity and increased awareness, enhanced multi-stakeholder partnerships and innovative approaches to maintain and rehabilitate identified critical peatland sites.
Following the success of the APFP and SEApeat projects, the ASEAN Environment Ministers endorsed the development of the ASEAN Programme on Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystem (APSMPE) 2014-2020.
1. Hooijer, A., Silvius, M., Wösten, H. and Page, S. 2006. PEAT-CO2, Assessment of CO2 emissions from drained peatlands in SE Asia. Delft Hydraulics report Q3943 (2006) ↩
2. Annual European Union greenhouse gas inventory 1990-2012 and inventory report 2014. Contribution to EU GHG emissions (excluding LULUCF) from Germany, UK and France in 2012 is 2.01 billion tonnes. ↩