KUCHING: Local soil scientists have been asked to overcome the scientific challenge in trying to unlock the soil secrets of tropical peat in Sarawak.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem said the challenge that the state was facing today was that tropical peatland as compared to other soil was still quite an understudied soil.
As a result, he said there had been numerous political and public slanders by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) against the state, creating confusion to the understanding and appreciation of tropical peatland.
“Many of these allegations were based on studies equating tropical peat with temperate peat, which is less complex that tropical peat,” he said at the launch of the TPRL Complex here yesterday by Head of State Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.
Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan read out his text-of-speech.
Adenan said given that global warming and rising sea levels were all real, development on peat soil and, in particular the palm oil industry, must be developed in a sustainable manner.
He said it was also for this reason the environmentally and socially responsible state government had established the Tropical Peat Research Laboratory (TPRL) in 2008 with the objective of developing scientific, technical knowledge and clear understanding of palm oil cultivation on tropical peat.
“TPRL over the years has achieved a great deal in our endeavours to understand the science of tropical peat, to make breakthroughs in peat research, translate these scientific breakthroughs into applied agricultural best practices, and to disseminate them to the scientific community, industry and the general public,”
Adenan said TPRL’s biggest asset today was not so much the complex it had now but the hard sciences and the empirical evidence, which cannot be refuted on any scientific level around the world.
He noted that its researches provided grounds to the state government’s policy to develop part of its peatland, supported by agriculture best practices that are sound and sustainable.
“This is, therefore, locally-conceived science of international quality, benefitting the world at large. TPRL has successfully, through its researches and findings, allowed our oil palm to defend its cause in any situation, anywhere in the world today.
“Of course, there are people who refused to accept the facts and science that we are presenting for reasons best known to themselves.” Adenan pointed that one does not need to be a scientist to bear witness to the results that the TPRL had yielded since its inception.
He said indeed Sarawak was now able to credibly defend its actions to develop peatland with empirical evidence to prove that carbon dioxide emanating from peat with oil palm plantations is lower than those from unused wasteland.
Such ‘wasteland’, he added, was therefore better off developed with systematic and profitable agriculture for their benefit.
The chief minister also pointed out the fresh fruit bunches (FFB) yield on peat land had now doubled to 20-25 tonnes per acre of peat land and commended the hard work of the TPRL team led by Dr Lulie Melling. “I am confident that this can be extended to other crops, such as pineapple.”
Among those present at the ceremony were Assistant Minister of Resource Planning Datuk Naroden Majais, Assistant Minister for Rural Economy Datuk Francis Harden Hollis, Assistant Minister for Native Laws and Customs Datuk John Sikie Tayai, Science advisor to the state government Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Datuk Amar Alfred Jabu Numpang and TPRL director Dr Lulie Melling.