Advocating for the conservation and rehabilitation of peatlands does not mean that these areas are off limits to economic activity. Sustainable land use aims to conserve the natural resources of the peatlands, while allowing reasonable exploitation that does not irreversibly destroy the peatland’s funtions or its potential to support people and wildlife.
Wetlands International is an active member of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and we are committed to promote sustainable palm oil production. In Malaysia, we advocate to halt opening up of new peatlands for agriculture (especially oil palm plantations) and development. At the same time, we promote the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMP) in the existing oil palm plantations on peatlands.
As a local environmental NGO we have consistently acknowledged the importance of the palm oil industry to the economy of Malaysia and its contribution to the income and well-being of the stakeholders. However, we urge that the industry should slowly phase out crops that require drainage and consider crops which can thrive well on natural peatlands such as:
- Tengkawang which is able to produce fine quality illipenut oil as palm oil
- Jelutong which is able to produce good quality latex
- Sago palm which produces sago starch that is the main staple for many communities on Borneo Island
At Tasek Bera which is a freshwater swamp (combination of peat swamp forest, reed/sedge swamp and open water) the Integrated Management Plan was developed to increase understanding of the impacts of agricultural practices on wetlands. It was intended more for the field managers of rubber and oil palm plantations as well as relevant government and corporate bodies. By outlining the main issues relating to the catchment landuse and the health of wetland system, links were made between maintenance of a healthy wetland and sustainable agricultural practices. The local communites of the area were also educated on the importance of conserving this important site as it affects their livelihood. They were introduced to eco-tourism activities as a source of alternative income which enabled them to appreciate the lake and the freshwater swamp surrounding it.
In Brunei – the Biodiversity Action Plan project, we assist Shell Brunei to lessen the impact of their activities on the surrounding peatlands. Through this project we recommended canal blocking to prevent drainage and raise the water table of peatlands to restore it to its natural state eventually.
Wetlands International undertakes research on the ecosystem restoration of peatlands, linked with new traditional low-intensity uses or commercial uses on wet and rewetted peatlands. We advocate for the (gradual) removal of drainage based activities on peat and replacement of these with sustainable alternatives. Our aim is to support and implement pilot projects that help develop and evaluate such opportunities.