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  Policy and Institutional Issues

a.         Policy Conflicts and Weaknesses

As in most ASEAN countries, there is no harmonized policy related to the management of peatlands in Indonesia. Peatlands are governed by policies related to environmental management, forestry, water resources, fisheries, water regulation, swamps, rivers, forest and land fire control, water pollution, protected areas, and forest protection. Such policy frameworks often have gaps or create conflicts for peatland management.
In Indonesia, peatlands have been badly affected as a result of conflicts and overlapping in policies. The most notable experience is the agriculture project in Central Kalimantan, where a large area of peatlands was drained and converted. This area had a far greater ecological than agricultural function. Several other peatland areas protected by law, such as the Tanjung Puting National Park, Lake Sentarum National Park in Kalimantan, and Berbak National Park in Sumatra, face frequent problems because of a lack of proper regulations and/ or weak law enforcement.

b.         Weak or Unclear Institutional Arrangements and Capacity for Peatland Management

There are many stakeholders involved in the utilization and management of peatlands but inter-sectoral coordination and communication between government agencies, and between the central and local governments with the community is essentially weak. This has lead to the emergence of conflicts in the utilization of peatlands. Weaknesses in the regulations/ laws on peatland management have also resulted in difficulties in implementation and enforcement of the regulations. For instance, Presidential decree No 32 Year 1990 states that peatlands with more than 3m peat depth in the upper stream have to be classified protected areas. In reality, most areas of production forests and forest concessionaires are in peatlands with a peat depth of more than 3m.

c.         Inappropriate Land and Natural Resource Use Planning

Peatlands are a unique ecosystem, thus their utilization has to take into account this uniqueness. The tropical peatlands is characterized by different thickness of peat, very fertile planting medium in the underlying mineral soils and the presence of a dome in the center of a peatland.  Unfortunately, there is hardly any example in Indonesia that has taken these characteristics into account in the utilization of peatlands.  The only example has been the traditional local practice of the Bugis and Malay people who build canals to maintain the water levels in the peatland ecosystem.

d.      Insufficient Information on Extent, Status and Suitability of Peatlands for Different Purposes

Data and information on the status of peatlands and their conditions, especially in the eastern part of Indonesia such as Papua, are still limited and scattered in various districts and related institutions. Additionally, one obstacle to peatland management is the lack of an approved definition and classification of peatlands.  This may lead to unclear peatland classification and difficulties in developing general guidelines for peatland management. 

e.         Insufficient Understanding of Peatland Management

One of the main setbacks in peatland management in Indonesia is the limited understanding on peatland functions and management options.  Decision makers, extension agents and the general society often disregard the complexity of peatlands. Consequently, the utilization of peatlands has been heavily focused on meeting the short-term objectives rather than long-term sustainability.
Peatland degradation has been rapidly accelerated by slash and burn practices. The uses of peatlands which do not consider the aspects of land suitability and sustainability, particularly during land preparation have also accelerated its degradation.
Recent information seems insufficient to draw any serious conclusions on the impacts of current practices.