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. Although significant progress has been made in this area with the guidance of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Secretariat and member countries and assistance of the international community – the problem of peatland fires still persists and in some countries has worsened. In recent years there has been growing recognition that peatland drainage and degradation is one of the main root causes of regular land and forest fires, and in order to prevent fires in the future it is important to address the root causes of degradation – such as the inappropriate development strategies, subsidies and incentive measures which encourage peatland drainage and degradation, inappropriate water management systems or dis-empowerment of local communities. There have been a number of small-scale site based activities to develop or test techniques for peatland rehabilitation and management, however, these have not been fully documented or scaled up.
ASEAN member countries have established an ASEAN Peatland Management Initiative in 2003 and are currently developing an ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy (complemented by National Action Plans) to guide the sustainable management of peatlands over the period 2006-2020. The current project aims to support the implementation of this Strategy, by strengthening regional and national capacity, supporting actions to prevent peatland degradation, demonstrating restoration options and sustainable management strategies and empowering local communities to take the lead in resource management.
It is planned that this project will assist countries in the region to implement priorities identified in the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy and associated national action plans by assisting countries to undertake strategic activities at the national or local level, as well as provide support and exchange activities in a regionally coordinated multi-country manner.