Benchmarks to evaluate peat agency’s performance defined

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - Given that the 2016-2020 peat restoration plan has yet to be finalized by the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency (BRG), including its annual plans within the five-year period until 2020, the peat agency's success indicators in terms of peat restoration performance legally remain unavailable.

The presidential regulation which set up the peat agency, among other things, stipulates that the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry is tasked with conducting evaluations of the peat restoration progress being made by the peat agency. The ministry, naturally, requires a specific methodology to perform this task effectively.

Besides carrying out extensive spatial-based monitoring and on-the-ground monitoring, which have led to law enforcement action being taken against peat violators, the ministry has also been using the peat agency’s indicative targeted peat restoration map, which was released in mid-September last year and covers an area of 2.49 million hectares, as the object of its evaluations.

Exactly a year after the issuance of the presidential regulation establishing the peat agency, Professor San Afri Awang, Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Governance at the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry - accompanied by his spatial team - presented the evaluation methodology selected by the ministry to measure the peat agency’s performance on last Friday (Jan 6) at the ministry office.

This is the second reporting compiled by foresthints.news as we strive to share with the public the efforts and progress, in the context of peat restoration, made by the peat agency over the first 10 months of its operation.

Hectare-based performance evaluation

The Director General explained that an evaluation based on hectare performance was selected as the methodology for measuring the number of hectares of peatlands that were restored by the peat agency over the course of 2016 in blocks located within the aforementioned indicative targeted peat restoration map.

Considering that the ministry had already carried out ground-checks in blocks representing the peat agency’s indicative map in South Sumatra and Riau provinces, the Director General chose Pulang Pisau regency in the province of Central Kalimantan, one of the four peat restoration priority regencies designated by the presidential regulation, as a case study.

As previously reported by foresthints.news on a periodic basis, the results of the ministry’s monitoring in the two peat restoration priority provinces of South Sumatra and Riau indicated that 2015’s burned peatlands have endured continued and significant exploitation at the hands of palm oil and pulp & paper companies, which have largely gone undetected by the peat agency.

As such, the ministry went so far as to order the companies involved in the planting of palm oil and acacia in these burned peatlands to remove them with immediate effect.

According to data from the peat agency and its indicative map, the area targeted for peat restoration in Pulang Pisau regency amounts to more than 282 thousand hectares, the majority of which consists of state forest areas, such as protection forests and national park. In contrast, the portion made up of non-state forest areas is very small.

Professor San Afri elaborated further: “Given that the annual peat restoration target in 2016 is unavailable because the five-year implementation plan is still in the process of being finalized, the evaluation instead focused on how many hectares have already been restored by the peat agency in all the blocks distributed within the indicative targeted peat restoration map.”

The evaluation - on the basis of the number of hectares already restored - used the target set by the presidential regulation as a point of reference. The regulation stipulated that the peat agency must complete the restoration of 30% of approximately 2 million hectares in 2016.

“Of course the peat agency has faced obstacles. This notwithstanding, the ministry needs to confirm how many hectares have already been restored, for example through revegetation, in every block included in the peat agency’s indicative targeted map,” he affirmed.

Burned peat restoration

San Afri demonstrated in spatial terms, using Google Earth, the distribution of most of the burned peatlands situated in Pulang Pisau (delineated in red) which form part of the peat agency’s indicative targeted peat restoration map, as shown below.

“Of the blocks of burned peatlands in Pulang Pisau included in the peat agency’s indicative map, we are looking to see how many hectares have been restored by the peat agency over 2016."

He used the following three blocks of 2015’s burned peatlands, which are included in the peat agency’s indicative targeted peat restoration map, as examples of how the ministry is performing its evaluation.

“In these three blocks, we will assess exactly how many hectares have already been restored by the peat agency,” he said.

Peat dome restoration

In addition to the restoration of burned peatlands incorporated in the peat agency’s indicative targeted peat restoration map, the peat agency was also tasked with restoring peat domes located in Pulang Pisau in which canals have been built.

San Afri pointed out the distribution of most of the peat domes found in Pulang Pisau regency which have been targeted for restoration by the peat agency (delineated in yellow).

“Our evaluation will also involve asking the peat agency how many hectares of each block of the peat domes were actually restored in 2016,” he said.

The two Google Earth images below were used by the Director General as examples of two blocks of peat domes, which were afflicted by 2015’s destructive fires, included in the peat agency’s restoration target.

The Director General explained further: “We are assessing exactly what peat restoration interventions have been made in these two blocks of peat domes, for example, as a way of measuring the peat agency’s level of efforts.”

Utilization-zoned peat restoration

Below is the distribution of most of the utilization-zoned peat restoration areas in Pulang Pisau regency as forms part of the peat agency’s indicative targeted peat restoration map (delineated in white). The utilization-zoned peat restoration areas are located in national park and protection forests, according to this map.

San Afri also singled out these two blocks of utilization-zoned peat restoration - likewise damaged in the 2015 fires - as examples of areas in which the number of hectares restored in 2016 were subject to an assessment.

Report in preparation

Peat Restoration Agency Chief Nazir Foead has said that a comprehensive report, including detailed locations in respect to peat restoration efforts in Pulang Pisau regency, is being prepared and, once finalized, will be submitted to the Environment and Forestry Minister.

“We have already built hundreds of boreholes and blocked dozens of canals in Pulang Pisau. These are located in some parts of 2015’s burned peatlands. The local government has also built hundreds of boreholes. A comprehensive report is currently being compiled for Minister Siti Nurbaya,” said Nazir in response to a written question from foresthints.news (Jan 7).

The peat restoration plan for Pulang Pisau regency is in the process of being converted into a legal document. Meanwhile, the respective peat restoration plans for the other three peat restoration priority regencies are set for completion by April 2017.

President Joko Widodo has consistently expressed a great level of concern with regard to the peat restoration efforts being undertaken in the aftermath of 2015’s catastrophic peat fires, the scale of which had an adverse effect on national economic growth.

The President’s unwavering commitment to this cause is exemplified by his formation of the peat agency in early January last year, with the aim of accelerating the restoration of peatlands gutted by the previous year’s extensive peat fires.