MEDAN – The Tropical Peat Research Laboratory Unit (TPRL) under the Chief Minister’s Department in Sarawak, Malaysia, is ready to help Indonesia overcome the problem of peat fires, by transferring its peat soil management technology to them.
Its director, 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.
She said TPRL recently received a visit from journalists and oil palm entrepreneurs to learn, and see how the method is being implemented in Sarawak.
Lulie said Indonesia was keen to learn the methods of managing peat in Sarawak, as the state did not have the problem of peat fires, eventhough it was just next to Kalimantan.
The Kalimantan province in Indonesia is among the regions facing the most serious problems due to peat fires, with the Air Pollution Index (API) in several areas reported to be more than 2,000, where an API of more than 300 is already considered hazardous.
“However, the fires do not occur in Sarawak, and the actual way to overcome the (peat) fires is by managing the soil,” she said.
She said there were certain parties who had proposed ways to overcome or methods of putting out fires more effectively in case it occurred, however, it did not solve the underlying problem.
“This is because peat is very porous, and it causes the soil to become dry and easily flammable, and as such, the compacting method is the most appropriate as a precautionary measure,” she said.
Lulie said the soil compacting method was carried out by draining the peat, compacting it, and then controlling water levels to ensure good soil conditions and moisture levels were maintained.
She said that the compact and moist peat would also become more fertile and be able to yield better oil palm crop in the long term.
“The soil compacting method can also be carried out at farms with existing crops, and we have the means to do so,” she said.
Indonesia has more than 4,000,000 hectares of abandoned peatland, she said, and would contribute to forest fires if they were not properly managed from now.
In October last year, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak met Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and offered to help overcome the problem of peat fires in the country, as they had also caused serious haze issues in Malaysia. – BERNAMA