Fajar Pebrianto, Jakarta – Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace criticized President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo who planned to convert peatlands into rice fields. The NGO's campaigner Rusmadya Maharudin asked the president not to make mistakes committed by President Soeharto in the New Order Era.
According to Rusmadya, the government systematically weakened the function of peatlands as one of the key ecosystems for Indonesia's and global climate. Bush fires in Central Kalimantan also rampant at the ex-areas of One Million Hectare Peatland Development Project that failed in the 1990s.
"This causes thick smog, harming the public health every year," said Rusmadya in a statement in Jakarta, Tuesday, May 5.
The government's plan to prepare new granaries was conveyed by Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto. He said President Jokowi demanded state and regional firms, as well as the Agriculture Ministry, to turn 900,000 hectares of peatlands into new rice fields in Central Kalimantan in a bid to prevent threats of a food crisis.
The Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) had also permitted the idea.
Rusmadya recalled peatland fires in Central Kalimantan throughout 2019 reached 266.484,9 hectares. Therefore, he opined that the BRG should focus on restoring peatlands thoroughly instead of shifting the land's function.
According to him, the shift of function is feared to damage dry peat and the whole ecosystem, which might lead to more severe peatland fires in Central Kalimantan.