Protecting Peatlands in Riau About a two-hour drive from Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau Province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra to Siak Sri Indrapura, lies the ancient capital of the Malay kingdom of the same name. Small villages dot the windy road which undulates over a landscape dominated by palm oil plantations. Riau is rich in natural resources like petroleum and natural gas. It is home to rubber and oil palm plantations and has also seen extensive logging and peatland degradation. Like other parts of Indonesia, fires in past years have affected the local people and their health. Siak district is home to large peat domes and Riau Province alone has approximately 4,600 km2 of peatlands, many of which are located on forestry and plantation company concessions. A peatland management plan was created in 2009 enabling the government to take a landscape level view, and to treat the peatlands as an entire system. H. Alfredi, Vice District Head of the region, said the district government “has designated several areas proposed as peatland protection or conservation zone, in addition to designating areas as wildlife reserves, biosphere reserves, and Zamrud National Park.” These areas include a number of peat domes (Alfredi, 2017).

with local people to dam some of the thousands of kilometres of drainage canals that cut through the region. This is designed to raise the water level to keep the peatlands wet and reduce the number of fires. “We can already feel the benefits,” Alfredi said. “Forest and land fire incidents have dropped in the last five years.” Traditional Malay teachings on “the relationship between man and the environment” underlie the regional approach, he said. These include “an indication that one is trustworthy – he or she does not destroy forests and nature.” Not destroying nature indicates “one that thinks carefully,” he said.

A few kilometres from the capital, the district government and the national Peatland Restoration Agency have been working


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