WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping disregards new peat regulations

(foresthints.news) - In line with the newly-revised government regulation signed by President Joko Widodo in early December last year, peat ecosystem damage is caused by peat fires among other factors.

However, the Norwegian-funded LiDAR mapping, under the coordination of the World Resources Institute (WRI) in support of the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency (BRG), neglected evidence of 2015’s burned peat areas, misclassifying them as secondary peat swamp forests and thus effectively ignoring the legal definition of peat ecosystem damage. 

The proven failure of the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping to include a field survey, thereby omitting evidence of these burned peat areas, means that the detailed land cover analysis based on the LiDAR mapping similarly disregards the new peat regulations

In legal terms, there is an ecological urgency for the recovery of peat ecosystems that have been burned. However, the land cover classification derived from the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping essentially eliminates any ecological urgency for efforts aimed at the recovery of 2015’s burned peat areas.

The photographs below depict examples of burned peat forests in Central Kalimantan’s Pulang Pisau regency ravaged by 2015’s devastating peat fires which were misclassified as secondary peat swamp forests by the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping, a grave error in legal terms.

This serious legal mistake on the part of the WRI-LiDAR mapping team belies the claim made by the Norwegian embassy that the LiDAR mapping it funded produced “detailed peat maps”, given that the content of these maps is legally incorrect.  

This kind of error has not only been made in Pulang Pisau. Another notable example of WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping misclassifying 2015's burned peat areas happened in South Sumatra's Padang Sugihan Wildlife Reserve, an area nearly as big as Singapore.

No feedback forthcoming

In fact, Peat Agency Chief Nazir Foead previously requested coordinates from foresthints.news for carrying out a field check. However, by the deadline given to him, there was no response forthcoming with regard to the results of such a ground-based check.

It goes without saying that foresthints.news is still awaiting the results of this field check from the peat agency.

Nonetheless, in August this year, the peat agency chief submitted the detailed analysis of the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping, which contained land cover classifications not derived from any field survey, to the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry.

Prior to delivering the detailed analysis of the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping, the peat agency should have confirmed to what extent a field survey, particularly with regard to land cover classification, had been carried out, if at all. The peat agency, however, failed to do this.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya - as previously reported by foresthints.news (Nov 24) - reaffirmed that her ministry has never used the detailed analysis of the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping whatsoever.

Furthermore, with respect to the land cover misclassification stemming from the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping, the minister - as a spatial analysis expert - cautioned that whatever mapping technology is used, with LiDAR mapping no exception, it must refer to time-series data, including government legal data, so that historical land cover changes are not subject to any form of bias.

In a legal sense, the detailed analysis of the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping holds no relevance for government institutions because the land cover misclassifications in it effectively erase all traces of 2015's burned peat areas, thereby dampening any ecological urgency for the recovery of Indonesian peatlands damaged by 2015's peat fires.