Learn more about Peatlands!
What are peatlands?
(What is the issue?)
Peat forests are natural swampy areas. Peat consists of fallen trees, plants, branches and leaves and other carbon matter that have built up in waterlogged conditions for millennia. When it rains, peat absorbs and retains the water, stopping the decomposition process and locking in the carbon stored in these peatlands.
Almost one-fifth of peatlands in Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, and Borneo are used for the industrial agriculture of oil palm and pulpwood. This results in the drainage and clearance of peatlands increasing the risks of fires and haze occurrences.
Why are peatlands important?
Peatland degradation increases fire risks and carbon emissions, accelerating climate change. Peatland fires can create up to 10 times more smoke than regular forest fires. A single hectare of degraded peatlands emits 16.515 MT of CO2 annually, which is equivalent to driving 3 passenger cars for an entire year.
When peatlands are damaged, the risk of fires increases, thus the occurrence of haze in our region becomes more likely. Elevated haze conditions increase hospital admissions of individuals with pre-existing conditions. Considering how 1 in 5 children in Singapore has asthma, preventing haze helps to protect our children's health.
Haze as a result from peatland degradation increases social and economic risks. Most recently in 2019, eateries in Singapore saw a drop of up to 90% patronage during haze episodes. In 2015, haze cost Singapore S$1.83 billion or S$463 per resident.
How can you help?
Degradation of peatlands for agricultural use is one of the major factors of haze. Sustainable agricultural certification associations like the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) have a "no new plantings on peat" policy that ensure that peatlands are protected. Choosing consumer goods that use sustainable palm oil is one way to ensure these peatland ecosystems are protected.
PM Haze's collaborates with local NGO, Ekonomi Kreatif Andalan (EKA) to rewet and revegetate degraded peatlands in Sungai Tohor. Established in 2019, our peatland restoration programme focuses on science-based methods that are simplified for local communities. The programme provides incentives and capacity building through peatland restoration also helps to revitalise the local community. You can adopt a tree to prevent haze.