PEOPLE FOR PEAT COALITION CALLS FOR COLLECTIVE ACTION AT THE GROUND LEVEL TO AVOID HAZE
May 20, 2022 by Irene Chooi
Photo captured by PFP coalition partner WRI Indonesia at Sungai Talang Rimba, South Sumatra in 2021
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: The People for Peat (PFP) coalition has called for collective action at the ground level in response to a Met Malaysia warning of higher temperatures and transboundary haze amid the dry season.
PFP lead analyst, Dr. Lee Jo Kien explained the worst episodes of transboundary haze in Southeast Asia tend to coincide with the driest years since dry peat is highly flammable and notoriously difficult to extinguish, “While Malaysia has had a relatively wet year, letting our guard down as we enter the dry season can have dire consequences as peat fires are known to rage on for months once they start.”
While extremely valuable as a carbon store and watersheds, peatlands in Southeast Asia have long been undervalued and converted into agricultural land through land clearing and draining. This turns these massive carbon storages into carbon emitters, which contributes a significant impact on the climate crisis.
Drained peatlands are also extremely dangerous as once exposed to fire, drained peat can continue burning underground for months and produce copious amounts of smoke even if the surface fire has been put out. Other than reducing visibility to the point of shutting down entire nations’ economies for days, haze is also extremely hazardous to our respiratory system, and has disrupted both work and education in previous occurrences.
Some of the high-risk peatlands in Malaysia include in Kuala Langat and Raja Musa in Selangor, Pekan in Pahang, as well as the Klias Peninsula in Sabah.
With temperatures expected to hit up to 35℃ in certain parts of the country in the coming months, Dr. Jo said it’s key for government agencies, communities and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that have been doing great work to coordinate fire and haze prevention to remain vigilant.
However, he believes local peatland communities have the biggest role to play, “For those who live in or around peatlands, be aware of your surroundings to serve as informants in case a peat fire breaks out. Be vigilant in fire prevention protocols around peat areas as a simple cigarette butt is enough to set off a peat fire.”
PFP’s Peat Ranger Training programme is geared towards involving the local community in the protection and management of their lands, in order to mitigate haze both locally and regionally.
PFP Peatland Restoration Expert and Peat Ranger Trainer, Dr. Eli Nur Nimala Sari commented, “It’s not easy to change habits or mindsets that have long been practiced or are prevailing in communities. Peat Ranger Training is one of the tools we use for capacity building at peatland communities and it has proven successful so far in increasing awareness of the importance of the peat ecosystem among communities.”
Peat Ranger Training has been carried out in Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam and Indonesia so far, with the Malaysian session to take place in June with candidates selected from local peatland communities, with an emphasis on gender equity, inclusivity and youth involvement
PFP is also currently in the midst of hosting our 2022 Virtual Regional Peat Symposium, which touches on various topics including sustainable livelihoods on peatlands and the role of youth in haze mitigation.
Symposium 3 happening on the 14th of June touches on fire prevention and using technology to monitor peatlands. We believe this is an extremely timely topic and invite you to participate in it by registering here.
For more information about our 2022 Virtual Regional Symposium series, click here.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or requests for more information.