Climate Action

Indonesia bans peatlands destruction after fires hospitalised 500,000

The president of Indonesia has ordered the restoration of peatlands after disastrous fires caused severe pollution and hospitalised 500,000 people

  • 17 November 2015
  • William Brittlebank

The president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, has ordered the restoration of burned peatlands and banned their clearance after disastrous fires caused severe pollution and hospitalised roughly 500,000 people in recent weeks.

The ruling is in response to recent fires that polluted skies across Southeast Asia, and released about 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon.

Widodo has banned the clearance and conversion of carbon-dense peatlands across Indonesia through a series of presidential and ministerial instructions issued over the last two-and-a-half weeks.

Greenpeace welcomed the rulings in s atatement on Tuesday and said: “President Jokowi is right to seek to prevent next year’s fires by banning further expansion into peatlands, and requiring peat drainage canals be blocked. It is also just that the government has declared burned areas must be rehabilitated rather than planted.”

The statement continued: “President Jokowi’s landmark decision to ban peatland development is a first step toward a cleaner, brighter future for Indonesia’s people and environment. It sets the bar for meaningful commitments from world leaders to tackle the root causes of climate change at the Paris climate summit.”

The government’s instructions prohibit planting in newly burned areas and mandates restoration.

The ruling requires drainage canals to be blocked in order to raise water tables and calls for criminal investigations into the fires.

The instructions also ban clearance of peatlands in existing concession areas.