UNPAR’s Peat Scientists and Practitioners Reject KFCP’s Plan
UNPAR’s Peat Scientists and Practitioners Reject KFCP’s Plan to Use Heavy Equipment in Implementing Hydrological Rehabilitation in the Ex-Mega Rice Project
Palangka Raya, 20 June 2011 – A group of peat scientists and practitioners in the University of Palangka Raya (UNPAR) has opposed the plan of Kalimantan Forests and Climate Project (KFCP), to implement hydrological rehabilitation (canal blocking) in Blocks A and E of the abandoned ex-Mega Rice Project (ex-MRP) site in Central Kalimantan using heavy machinery. The project, funded by AusAID Australia, plans to fill in the drainage canals using peat, organic matter and wood debris available on the canal embankment.
The local experts strongly urge for the plan to be stopped, citing that the KFCP should not qualify as a REDD demonstration activity if the plan is carried through.
Their opposition is based on science, due to concerns related to the potential negative ecological, economic and social impacts of the plan. In their opinion, using excavators to close or block open canals using peat and organic matter as well as other wood debris has many drawbacks. Although a similar technique has been tested by a private organisation in Sumatera, its success and effectiveness has not been scientifically proven. In addition, the method may not yield the same outcome as the ecosystem and physical characteristics of the peat of Central Kalimantan is different to that found in Sumatera
From an engineering perspective, the available peat and wood debris on the canal banks will no longer be enough to completely refill the open canals as the volume has been much reduced by subsidence, decomposition and depletion. They have also lost their water absorption capacity due to repeated incidences of drying and fire. Consequently, new peat would need to be excavated from elsewhere to make up for the shortage. In short, they would be closing old canals by digging new ones.
The deployment of heavy machinery for canal blocking is predicted to cause negative ecological, economic and social impacts as listed below:
- The excavators’ path would cause peat subsidence and compaction, increasing of GHG emissions and hindering natural regeneration, effectively slowing down the carbon sequestration rate in the area;
- The mobilization of excavators would destroy natural and regenerated vegetation along the canal levees and courses;
- Movement of the excavators would disturb the aquatic biota and vegetation that have naturally re-colonised Blocks A and E of the ex-MRP;
- The utilization of wood debris can accelerate the release of GHGs and cause the loss of standing dead biomass which can be used for other purposes such as firewood, charcoal and building materials;
- As both blocks A and E are routinely inundated during peak rainy season, refilling the canals with peat can increase the sedimentation rate at both the Mantangai and Kapuas Rivers as the peat is washed downstream. This would exacerbate river pollution, which is detrimental to the aquatic ecosystem.
Economy and Social:
- The usage of heavy equipment (capital intensive) will reduce the opportunity for local labor to be involved in the KFCP program. This contradicts with the 3Es (effective, efficient & equity) principle as the core objective of REDD activity; and
- The movement of excavators may destroy planted crops and trees, creating social tensions between the project and local land owners.
Lack of Respect for Traditional Wisdom
Refilling the canals using heavy equipment to restore peat hydrology is viewed to not be as effective and efficient compared to the traditional dam (tabat) method. CIMTROP, a project in UNPAR; and several other NGOs have successfully proven the capability of the traditional dam method to restore peat hydrology. Therefore, KFCP’s proposed method is seen as a lack of respect and acknowledgement for traditional knowledge and technology. KFCP’s reliance on the capital-intensive method is not only expensive, ineffective and inefficient, but also detrimental to the existing peatland ecosystem.
Considering the factors mentioned before and the likely negative impacts, UNPAR’s peat scientists and practitioners would like to recommend the following:
- KFCP’s plan to do hydrological rehabilitation by using excavator in the Block A and E of the ex-Mega Rice Project to be cancelled;
- Urge the governments of Kapuas District, Central Kalimantan Province and the Central Government to re-examine whether the Project had conducted an appropriate in-depth Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for its hydrological rehabilitation plan. If an EIA study has been completed, it is highly recommended to do a re-examination and re-evaluation of the study results; and
- If the project continues with its plan to implement the hydrological rehabilitation using heavy equipment, it is recommended that both provincial and central governments re-evaluate the implementation of KFCP as a REDD demonstration activity in the ex-Mega Rice Project area; as it is believed that their hydrological rehabilitation interventions works against the efforts to protect peatlands and curb emissions from this fragile ecosystem.
Representatives of UNPAR’s Peat Scientist and Practitioners:
Dr. Ir. Suwido Limin, MS
Mr. Alue Dohong
Dr.Ir. Uras Tantulo, M.Sc
Dr. Darmae Nasir, M.Si, MA
Dr. Yanetri Asi, SP, MP
Dr. Ir. Adi Jaya, M.Si