Towards sustainable peat landscapes in South-east Asia

What can be done to mitigate further subsidence and resulting flooding in the tropics and instead create sustainable peat landscapes?

Radically change peatland use

There is an urgent need to better quantifying the peatland subsidence and flooding problem in Southeast Asia and enhance the understanding of the longer-term implications of peatland drainage among industry, government and communities. Mitigating the subsidence problems requires a radical change in peatland management and planning.  

Our recommendations to come to more sustainable peat landscapes:

  • Review of management practices of peatlands worldwide; 
  • Prolong the Indonesian Moratorium on forest and peatland conversion and consider this also for Malaysia.
  • Issuance of a Government regulation limiting drainage use in forest and plantation concessions in peatlands.
  • No new drainage-based plantations on peat. 
  • Conservation of all remaining tropical peat swamp forests in view of their valuable ecosystem services (including carbon storage, water regulation, biodiversity);
  • Existing agriculture and plantations should minimize drainage to bring the water up, curb the application of fertilizers and maintain a permanent ground cover to reduce the rate of peat soil degradation and enhance peat soil protection as an interim measure towards permanent solutions;  
  • In the mid and long term degraded peatlands should be rewetted and rehabilitated, either to natural habitat or to alternative land-uses like paludiculture (cultivation of commercially interesting crops on rewetted peatlands);
  • To prevent flooding, these companies will eventually have to abandon their peat-based plantations or change their production systems: they can either move to suitable mineral soils areas, or must switch to production systems that require no drainage (paludiculture), using alternative (local peat swamp) species such as Illipe nut (Shorea spp) for vegetable oil production or Melaleuca for pulpwood.  
  • Implementation of all environmental and social safeguards, as defined by the UNFCCC, in peatland development, restoration and conservation.

Wetlands International raises awareness, understanding and capacity to manage peatlands wisely. We work with a wide range of partners including scientific institutes, government, NGOs, and private sector. Wetlands International collaborates with Deltares in better quantifying the peatland subsidence and flooding problem in SE Asia.The insights in peatland drainage impacts and subsidence rates are largely taken from Hooijer et al. (2010) and Hooijer et al. (2012).

Contact person:

Marcel Silvius, Programme Head Climate-Smart Land Use

Contact person

Marcel Silvius, Programme Head Climate-Smart Land Use