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  Responses to the Problems

 Photo credit: Chin Sing Yun/GEC

With increasing recognition of the significance of peatland degradation in the ASEAN region, there has been a growing level of activities at national and regional level. At national level there have been a range of actions initiated including the establishment of national mechanisms for monitoring and controlling peat fires. There have also been some measures to promote the sustainable use of peatlands in some sites, but these have not been scaled up to national or regional level. The focus to date has been primarily focused on addressing the symptoms of the problem – such as controlling peatland fires, addressing land subsidence and flood control following peatland degradation.


At the regional level, the ASEAN countries have started to establish a number of mechanisms to address forest and peatland fires and associated transboundary smoke haze. These include the ASEAN Regional Haze Action Plan and the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. The focus on the specific problems related to peatland has led to the adoption in February 2003 of the ASEAN Peatland Management Initiative and the initial development of the associated ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy for wise use and sustainable management of peatlands. Addressing environmental degradation especially transboundary haze pollution has been highlighted in ASEAN Vision 2020 as well as being as a key element in the proposed ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.


Over the past 10 years the international donor community has started to provide some support to address the problem of forest and peatland fires in the region. Support has come from a range of sources including the ADB, European Union, JICA, GTZ, CIDA, Netherlands Government and GEF. Support has primarily focused on fire control, monitoring and early warning. Relatively few projects have focused on longer term fire prevention through sustainable peatland and forest management. In the past five years some projects have started to look at the issue of peatland management in relation to sustainable use. The largest of these has been the Climate Change Forest and Peatland in Indonesia project (CCFPI) supported by CIDA and implemented by Wetlands International Indonesia, Wildlife Habitat Canada and Global Environment Centre in conjunction with a range of national and local agencies and community groups. This project has developed a number of modalities for community-based management and rehabilitation of peatlands which will be developed further through the current project linked to the development and implementation of National Action Plans.

With regard to specific support from GEF – funding was first provided in 1998, in response to the major El Nino-induced forest fires in Southeast Asia. UNEP-GEF provided a grant of US$750,000 for a project on Emergency Response to Combat Forest Fires in Indonesia to Prevent Haze in Southeast Asia. This completed project focused on development of monitoring and early warning systems and generated some important outputs including assistance for development of regional monitoring mechanisms and the regional transboundary haze agreement as well as support for a range of capacity building activities. In 2001 UNDP-GEF initiated a project on sustainable management of peatlands in Malaysia focussing on three sites important for biodiversity conservation. This on-going project is developing good models for integrated management of peatlands in the target sites but does not work outside Malaysia. In 2003 UNEP-GEF supported a global targeted research project on Integrated Management of Peatlands for Biodiversity and Climate Change. This project has supported (with an allocation of about $250,000) pilot activities in Indonesia and assisted regional cooperation in Southeast Asia. The project has facilitated the development of the ASEAN Peatland Management Initiative and initiation of the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy – both of which provide an important basis of the current project. The UNEP-GEF project will be completed in Mid-2006, prior to the initiation of the current project. These three GEF supported activities provide a good basis for the development of the current project. Lessons learned from the earlier interventions will guide the design of the future project.


Status and Values of Peat Swamp Forests
One of the major land types in Southeast Asia is peatlands. In a natural state these occur as peat swamp forests. These wetland forests have developed primarily in the coastal lowland plains in-between major rivers. Read more >>


Degradation of Peatlands
Over the past 30 years, peat swamp forests have been increasingly cleared, drained and degraded as a result of unsustainable forestry and agricultural practices. Read more >>

Degradation Due to Drainage and Subsidence
Even without fire, the peatlands of the region degrade rapidly once they are drained with land subsidence of up to 3m as recorded in some parts of the region following unregulated drainage. Read more >>
Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts
All of these various problems have combined to make the degradation of the peat swamp forests of Southeast Asia into one of the most extensive and important land degradation problems in the world. Read more >>
Need for new intervention
To date, efforts in the region to address the increasing problems of peatland fires and associated transboundary haze and greenhouse gas emission have focussed mainly on early warning and firefighting approaches. Read more >>