Forest and plantation fires had damaged a total area of 2.6 million hectares across Indonesia in 2015, CIFOR scientist Herry Purnomo, concurrently professor of the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), stated here, Tuesday.
The wildfires produced CO2 emissions that equaled the emissions in the United States during the same period.
The peatland agency plans to restore two million hectares of degraded peatland areas and to prevent the recurrence of wildfires.
"The BRGs endeavors need the support and involvement of the relevant stakeholders to prevent damage to peatland areas," he affirmed.
CIFOR and the Disaster Study Center of the University of Riau have organized a training and dialog as the start to the establishment of a forum called the Forum of Haze-Free Country (FORSIBU) to strengthen commitment to preventing forest and plantation fires in Riau Province.
"Through the FORSIBU, stakeholders are expected to improve the management of peat swamp areas through active participation of the local administrations, academicians, the private sector, local community, and NGOs," Dr Haris Gunawan of the Disaster Study Center noted.
Concrete actions at the grassroots level include capacity building of voluntary firefighters in every village and kampong, the setting up of community-based canal blocking, and providing education on forest fire prevention by involving police officers and schools in high-risk regions, among others.
President Joko Widodo installed Nazir Foead, former conservation director at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), as head of the BRG on January 20.
The BRG, which has been set up based on Presidential Regulation Number 1 of 2016, is chiefly tasked with preventing forest fires that particularly occur in peatlands and to restore such areas gutted by forest fires, particularly on Sumatra and Kalimantan Islands.