ASEAN Secretariat and IFAD Ink Deal to Promote Sustainable Development of Peatlands and Address Transboundary Smoke Haze Pollution

ASEAN Secretariat, 31 March 2009

A Project Grant Agreement to implement the “Rehabilitation and Sustainable Use of Peatland Forests in Southeast Asia” project was recently signed by the ASEAN Secretariat and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The Agreement was signed by Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN and Mr Lennart Båge, President of IFAD.

The four-year project received a grant of US$4.3 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and will mobilise an additional US$10.2 million in co-financing during the implementation phase. IFAD has been designated as the implementing agency for GEF while the ASEAN Secretariat will coordinate the execution of the project in ASEAN Member States.

Dr Surin expressed his appreciation to GEF and IFAD for their support to this project. He noted that “the project will help to address the major transboundary environmental problem – smoke haze pollution – facing the ASEAN region.”

He added, “More importantly, this project will also contribute towards addressing the global climate change crisis. More and more international partners have recognised the value and mutual benefits of working with ASEAN and the ASEAN Secretariat and capitalising on its robust intergovernmental framework for programme design, implementation and monitoring. This GEF/IFAD project is another demonstration of this confidence in ASEAN.”

ASEAN has more than 30 million hectares of peatlands comprising 60% of global tropical peatland resource. Peatlands are primarily water-logged areas containing centuries-old decayed vegetative matter up to several metres deep. While being significantly important for development, livelihood, environment and biodiversity, unsustainable practices and adverse climate conditions have severely degraded the peatlands, making them the primary source of fires and smoke haze that affects the region regularly. Degraded peatlands are also a major source of greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. ASEAN, through the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution adopted in 2002, is undertaking a concerted effort to address forest and land fires in fire prone areas such as the peatlands.

This project takes a holistic approach to promote sustainable management of peatlands, sustain local livelihoods, reduce risk of fire and associated smoke haze, and contribute to global environmental efforts particularly biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. It consists of both national activities undertaken in participating countries with major peatland areas, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Viet Nam and regional activities involving all ASEAN States to share best practices, technology and experience. On-the-ground activities will be undertaken at several identified peatland areas together with the local governments, private sector and local community.

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