The most effective measures to stop the degradation process of the South-east Asian peatlands should be taken by the South-east Asian governments.
Protection of peatswamp forests
Policies should be put in place that no longer allow large-scale conversion of their remaining peatswamp forests to land uses such as palm oil and pulp plantations that require clear felling and drainage. Intensive policy, legislation and law enforcement are necessary.
Restoration of degraded peatlands
Degraded peatlands should be restored through water management measures such as closing drainage channels. Once the hydrology is restored, emissions are stopped. Costs for restoration are relatively low; about 15 cents for every avoided tonne CO2. Including awareness campaigns and including providing alternative, sustainable livelihoods, the Central Kalimantan Peatland Project was able to restore peatland at initial costs of 1 Euro / tonne CO2. Of course additional funds are needed to maintain these activities for the long term.
Incentives for sustainable use of peatland
The causes behind peatland degradation are complex. Illegal logging by local communities is one of them. Without appropriate economic measures it is impossible to invest in the conservation and management of remaining peatswamp forests and to restore degraded peatlands. Local people should be able to finance their lives in alternative ways before they can be expected to worry about depleting their natural resources. The countries should therefore provide incentives for sustainable use of peatlands, by stimulating alternative livelihoods in peatlands, including fisheries, agriculture and agro-forestry with species that do not need drainage.
Continue supporting conservation and rehabilitation projects
Projects like the Central Kalimantan Peatlands Project prove that it is possible to work on solutions to the peatland problems. These projects help, equip and train locals preventing the peatland fires (delivering equipment, building capacity), have expertise on closing drainage canals by building dams, help providing alternative sources of income for locals and dealing with the smoke related public health issues in peatlands, set up reforestation activities (both natural forest as commercially important wood types) and provide guidance in infrastructure for the conservation of remaining peat swamp forests.
The Indonesian government has recently taken the first step in announcing their Master plan for the Ex mega Rice project, with the aim to rehabilitate one of the largest degraded peatland area in Indonesia. Whereas addressing op peatland degradation is first of all the responsibility of the country concerned, there is a need for international support and incentives to realise this.