Peat (update 3): Norway to develop peatland-friendly agriculture in Indonesia, Haze Can Only Be Overcome Through Peat Soil Management - Dr Lulie Melling, MOEF 50 boreholes, US$67 million in grants for peat lands restoration

26 May 2016: Haze Can Only Be Overcome Through Peat Soil Management - Dr Lulie Melling

Haze Can Only Be Overcome Through Peat Soil Management, Says Expert MEDAN, May 21 (Bernama)...Dr Lulie Melling said the cooperation would also help solve the haze problem which has affected the socio-economy and health of citizens in the region. "One of the most appropriate methods to resolve the problem of peat fires is by compacting the soil using excavators and this will consolidate the peat soil. "Consolidating the soil will increase the soil bulk density and increase the moisture holding capacity of the soil. The moisture content of the peat soil is increased via a better capillary rise of the soil, thus, at the same time, it will moisten the peat to prevent the occurrence of fire," she told Bernama here recently.....

12 May 2016: Norway to develop peatland-friendly agriculture in Indonesia, MOEF 50 boreholes, US$67 million in grants for peat lands restoration 

Norway to develop peatland-friendly agriculture in Indonesia, 4 Mei 2016, "Well help Indonesia in mastering how to cultivate plants without drying the peat lands, and how to increase the value added of the plants. There are some plants that can grow without drying the peat, such as sago," Traavik said here on Tuesday.... He added that the Norwegian government will also help to market the commodities produced through peat-friendly agricultural practices.... The Ambassador said in principle, Norway is ready to support all efforts to prevent damage that land and forest fires cause. According to him, the important thing to prevent forest fires, especially in peat lands, is not to let the lands dry up. "If the land becomes dry, then no technology in the world can cope with it. And if it burns, Indonesia will have a very big problem," he explained... During the visit, the ambassador, the agency, as well as the representatives of the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry inaugurated 50 boreholes which serve to moisten the lands. Earlier, in February 2016, the government of Norway had allocated a grant of US$50 million to help the peat lands restoration program in Indonesia. Meanwhile, the US government has also allocated a grant of $17 million....

2 March 2016: MPOC paper 'A Historical Perspective of Peat Exploitation in Europe and its Sustainability,'  Indonesia's transmigration and two mega fires, USA $1 billion price tag on methane emission disaster, Sabah socio-political impasse on Kinabatangan environmental corridor project

Editor's note: I will start to prepare my summary paper for the 15th International Peat Congress 2016, 15-19 August, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. The paper is entitled "Haze control and the oil palm farmer – a review of policy options." This builds on earlier work published by The Habibie Center:  Haze Control through the Sustenance of Indonesian Oil Palm Smallholders by Khor Yu Leng, Johan Saravanamuttu and Deborah Augustin. You can find the article by downloading the Nov 2015 newsletter by The Habibie Center by clicking on this link: Referring page: - newsletters section. Below also a link to how a more litigious society handles an air pollution crisis with climate damage - the case of SoCalGas in the USA. The issue of rural livelihoods also comes to the fore in the reported problem in Sabah about unwillingness of enough local peoples to contribute their land to a Kinabatangan project - state politicians sound neither keen to pay for the land and nor push for compulsory land acquisition. Again the question arises: who pays?

Info below on Sarawak hosting IPC 2016 and click here:

MPOC has just published a new paper titled 'A Historical Perspective of Peat Exploitation in Europe and its Sustainability'  at its Journal of Oil Palm, Environment and Health (JOPEH)...In the same period (1990-2008), Malaysia lost about 31,500 hectares, or about 1% of its peatland area. This figure only represents about less than 3% of the total peatland loss in Asia. (The highest peat loss in Asia during this time frame is in Indonesia, which lost about 450,000 hectares)...

Suharto and Haze BY VERDINAND ROBERTUA 29 Feb 2016; ...As greater numbers of transmigrants went to outer Indonesia in the early to mid-1980s, the forest areas designated for transmigration projects were not adequate and protected forests were cut down. The catastrophic East Kalimantan fire in 1983 which destroyed 3,000,000 hectares of primary and secondary forests is considered as impact of massive sponsored transmigration. In the 3 million hectare area covered by the 1982-1983 fires in Kalimantan, only 11 percent of old-growth forest burned, while over 80 percent of logged areas burned..... The second disaster was the million-hectare peat-swamp project in Central Kalimantan. Beginning in 1995, the Suharto regime embarked on its last and most disastrous megadevelopment project – a scheme to transform peat forests covering more than 1 million hectare in the heart of Kalimantan into a rice-growing region colonized by more than 1,5 million transmigrants from Java. The region in question constitutes a large part of the largest peat-swamp floodplain in western Indonesia and contains some of the oldest and deepest peat deposits on the planet...

How Do You Stop the Biggest Gas Leak Ever? Inside the efforts to plug SoCalGas’s methane disaster. by Karen Weise  Bloomberg Businessweek Reprints February 10, 2016; ...The leak had been spewing for about two weeks. Southern California Gas Co., the subsidiary of Sempra Energy that owns the facility at Aliso Canyon, had tried and failed to kill it..... Based on Conley’s readings, the state would estimate that in less than a month, Aliso released more than 68 million pounds of methane. Since then, it’s leaked 132 million pounds more, the state says, based on Conley’s subsequent flights... Aliso potentially the largest-ever single release of methane into the atmosphere—at least, the largest ever recorded....Sempra Energy, has said it has more than $1 billion in insurance coverage that it believes will cover many of the current and expected a worst-case scenario, Sempra could face a bill of as much as $900 million, says Brandon Barnes, an energy litigation analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. If the leak is stopped by the end of March, the total cost could be about $250 million, he estimates. That includes roughly $115 million to stop the leak and relocate families, $40 million for civil liabilities, and $11 million in state fines. One of the biggest expenses could come from mitigating the climate damage, which the state says it will require. Buying carbon offsets would cost about $92 million, according to Barnes’s calculations.....

Sabah’s ‘Corridor of Life’ hits snag as landowners say no to acquisition BY JULIA CHAN March 1, 2016; Sabah is facing a major stumbling block in its Kinabatangan “Corridor of Life” wildlife conservation project as landowners in the highly cultivable region are unwilling to give up their plots for conservation purposes....  the state was not keen, however, to use the Land Acquisition Act to compel the landowners to give up or sell their land as they do not want to upset any party. “We want them to be partners in conservation but they won’t be good partners if we force them to sell their land. We want it to be as amicable as possible, through friendly persuasion. “The other option is land acquisition but buying land is not cheap and we hope to avoid this. We feel the best situation is when the people feel they have ownership of the programme, so that they are willing to help and want to contribute to the success of the programme.“We are not giving up. Sooner or later, the owners will see the logic in the corridor,” he said....

19 May 2015: Peat classification based on USDA.

Editor's note: Just as we were writing this blog posting we receive courtesy of Dr Param, a copy of his recent presentation:
"ROLE OF UNIFIED PEAT CLASSIFICATION IN THE MSPO CERTIFICATION SCHEME"  Paper presented at the MPOA Forum: Sustainability the MSPO Way  30th April 2015 by Paramananthan, S., Ramadasan, K., Tan, Y.A.

Do contact the authors and/or MPOA for a copy.

Key slides include the following:
  • 12: SUMMARY OF FINDINGS: Malaysian Unified Peat Classification – BETTER characterizes Tropical Peat Soils. Separates fibric / hemic / sapric
  • Recognizes Depth Classes - Topo, Ombro. Recognizes: Presence / absence of wood. Nature of wood: Decomposed, Undecomposed.  Identifies – underlying mineral substratum
  • 14: MSPO vs RSPO: RSPO makes blanket ruling – NO OIL PALM ON PEAT. MSPO must be realistic - Need to eradicate poverty (smallholders) What to do with oil palms already on Peat. Can these areas be replanted.
  • 18: CRITERIA TO BE USED FOR DECISION - TECHNICAL SUITABILITY YIELD ON DIFFERENT PEAT TYPES Example: Peat Characteristics and Its Impact on Yield (Ramesh et al., 2014)

Source: Paramananthan et al. 30 April 2015

Info below on Sarawak hosting IPC 2016 and click here:

14 May 2015: Smaller producers and smallholders drive expansion into marginal areas?

Editor's note: I had an interesting chat with one of the highly respected planters of the Malaysia palm oil sector last night. I was interviewing him for the Felda smallholder case study report (now in completion stage). He expressed the view that it is most likely that most plantable areas will become planted (barring a big discouraging price drop) including forest and peat zones; because of the consumption boom and also the desire for profits and livelihoods.

Just after attending a full day of the Singapore Dialogue hosted by Simon Tay / SIIA where the smallholder word kept popping up again and again, the reasoning is clear. It is widely understood that areas that cannot be planted under pledges made by the largest plantations is likely to be planted by smaller producers and smallholders. That is, unless the big plantation might hold on to the set-aside areas. At the forum there was talk of a new type of land licence that might permit the largest plantations to do this in Indonesia. This seems to be in place for Olam's project in Gabon with its big set-asides. What about elsewhere? The Bunge representative also spoke of a need to make natural capital markets pay i.e. is there a premia or payment to retain forests and peat zones?
Read more here:
Singapore Dialogue (update 1a): SIIA / Simon Tay dialogue in Singapore centered on palm oil sustainability, Indonesia extends moratorium, ASEAN banks under WWF spotlight /khorreports-palmoil/2015/05/attended-siia-simon-tay-dialogue-in.html
Peat has become a controversial area for new oil palm development. It has been increasingly declared "no go" ever since the December 2013 Wilmar-TFT-Greenpeace associates deal and the Greenpeace HCS Approach. It seems to be part of the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP). The Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto's (more centered on Malaysia plantations with some Indonesia cross-over participation with IPOP members too) HCS is looking at it too. The reality is that most big plantations avoid peat anyway as they focus on their land banks in lower development cost zones. Those left to contemplate oil palm on peat are most likely the smaller producers and smallholders living in those areas (with few other options to move away and no better profit / earning generating crop or non-crop livelihood option available).
We understand that there has been substantive work in Malaysia on the different types of peat and its suitability for planting. This topic has been replete with rhetoric but specialists point out that it has been rather too short on scientific data from within the tropical peat zone. On this point, we can look forward to what new empirical work is being done by the Manifesto's HCS. And likewise, scientific data is being discussed by the Tropical Peat Research Laboratory of Sarawak (the work of the irrepresible Dr Lulie Melling has been cited by the very important Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change/IPCC and many others: This is no surprise given the surfeit of peat in the East Malaysian state and their facing the prospect of having limited promising alternative economic projects for their peat zone peoples.
So, there will be an important International Peat Congress, 15-19 August 2016 (next year) in Sarawak. Dr Lulie Melling says: "We are going to create a few histories.... The International Union of Soil Science has agreed to support this congress....which means this is a scientific forum in which no one can conveniently disqualify scientific publications.... On top of that we also have lead partners from Indonesia in this Congress."
Links are below.
Dear all,
Greetings from Sarawak. The Malaysian Peat Society (MPS) in partnership with International Peat Society (IPS) will be hosting the 15th International Peat Congress 2016 (15th IPC 2016) for the first time outside of Europe and North America.
The theme of the congress is ‘Peatlands in Harmony– Agriculture, Industry & Nature'. As the theme suggests, this congress will relate to an integrated global perspective for the responsible use of peatlands and the preservation of their unique dynamics and natural biodiversity. The Congress will also provide for researchers, academics and practitioners, an ideal platform to congregate, share information and discuss their scientific results and experiences, with particular reference to peat and peatlands in tropics.
On behalf of the Organizing committee, we hope that you could participate as a participant or present a paper. For paper presentation, we would be very grateful if you could send us the title and an abstract of not more than 300 words.
I believe that this Congress will provide you with a fruitful intellectual experience as well as a memorable visit to Sarawak. We look forward to seeing you on our shores!
Enclosed is the First Announcement.  If you require any further information, please feel free to visit us at
We look forward to your acceptance and welcoming you in Kuching, Sarawak and your participation in this forthcoming Congress.
Lulie Melling, PhD
Tropical Peat Research Laboratory
Chief Minister's Department)
Lot 6035, Kuching-Kota Samarahan Expressway
94300 Kota Samarahan
Tel : +6082-662491 (0) +6082-662495 (D)
+6082-662497 (Fax)