World Resource Institute

Indonesia: Managing Peatland Fire Risk in Central Kalimantan Province

By Dr. Shiv Someshwar, Esther Conrad, and Dr. Rizaldi Boer

Uncontrolled spread of fires in peatlands poses a serious risk to public health, livelihoods, and conservation efforts in Indonesia, and contributes significantly to climate change. Since 2006, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society and Bogor Agriculture University have worked with government and NGO partners to help develop a seasonal early warning system for managing fires in the peatlands of Central Kalimantan.

As a result of project efforts, a 2008 regulation in Central Kalimantan integrated the use of seasonal climate information in assessments of fire risk and subsequent decisions on whether or not to allow controlled burning during the upcoming fire season. This superseded a previous regulation banning all use of fire, which had negatively impacted farmers who traditionally used fire to clear their land. A freely accessible early warning online system and training for key provincial and district staff on how to use the system have enabled a high degree of awareness about season-ahead fire prediction. However, widespread and formal use of this information has been limited by the fact that current institutions involved in fire management are designed to support reactive measures once fires have already occurred. They do not, as yet, have capacity to undertake proactive steps to reduce fire risk based on seasonal information.

Further, the design of appropriate incentive systems for farmers is crucial to the success of the fire risk regulation, and requires further research on alternatives to fire use, their costs, institutional mechanisms for offering incentives, and monitoring fire use. Currently, farmers, particularly those practicing shifting cultivation, do not have other economically viable options for land clearing besides fire. To avoid using fire, they would need to receive tangible support. The longer lead-time offered by the seasonal early warning system could be instrumental in developing an incentive-based fire management program that enables planning and action over a longer time horizon.

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