Scientists Win $1m to Map Peats and Help Indonesia Tackle Wildfires

In 2015, forest and and peat fires across Indonesia caused 100,000 premature deaths and cost the country's economy $16 billion. (Reuters Photo/Darren Whiteside)

By : Dames Alexander Sinaga | on 6:36 PM February 06, 2018
Category : News, Environment

Jakarta. The International Peat Mapping Team, or IPMT, on Friday (05/02) won the $1 million Indonesian Peat Prize for the best methodology to measure the extent and depth of peatland in the country.

The two-year competition was launched by the Geospatial Information Agency (BIG) in February 2016. It attracted 44 teams from 10 countries.

"BIG is pleased and excited that the prize has produced the best peatland mapping method, which combines accuracy, affordability and timeliness to support BIG's work in mapping and providing geospatial data and information ... By standardizing the method, we can have accurate peatland data and information, which will protect our peatland in an efficient way," BIG head Hasanuddin Z. Abidin said in a statement.

The IPMT consists of German, Dutch and Indonesian scientists from Germany's Remote Sensing Solutions (RSS), Indonesia's Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) and Sriwijaya University.

"This methodology will support to acquire the topographic elevation data for peatland ... which can be used to understand groundwater level and other hydrological assessments for restoration purpose," said Bambang Setiadi, one of the Indonesian scientists at the IPMT, adding that peats are more susceptible to fires if groundwater levels are low in the dry season.

According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), in 2015, forest and and peat fires across Indonesia caused 100,000 premature deaths and cost the country's economy $16 billion.

In 2016, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo established the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) to restore around 2.5 million hectares of degraded peats to prevent wildfires.

Better management of the country's peatland ecosystems will also help the government achieve its target to reduce emissions by 41 percent in 2030.

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