Sarawak disputes report on peatland gas emission


  • Business
  • Saturday, 02 Oct 2010

KUCHING: A Dutch consultant report recommending the inclusion of greenhouse gas emission from peatland as a criterion for Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification has been rejected.

The report has been contested and disqualified by a scientific findings from the Tropical Peat Research Laboratory Unit of Sarawak Chief Minister’s Department that carbon dioxide (CO2) emission from oil palm plantations on peatland is lower than that of forest peat swamp, said the unit’s director Dr Lulie Melling.

The findings also revealed that CO2 emission from plantations on tropical peatland decreased over time.

“This is the achievement we have attained in the international locus standi on peat research,” she said at the unit’s first open day here yesterday.

Sarawak Land Development Minister Datuk Dr James Masing, State Secretary Datuk Amar Morshidi Abdul Ghani and owners of several leading oil plantation companies were briefed by Dr Lulie on the operations of the laboratory.

Dr Lulie said the unit, which had facilities to carry out greenhouse gas, peat soil, plant, water and microbial analysis, collaborated with more than five Japanese universities, including Hokkaido University and Forest Research Institute Japan, in its research activities.

She said the unit had started several research projects to reinforce its earlier findings and to further understand peatland problems in order to address them.

The projects funded by the Federal Government through Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) are physical and chemical properties of a tropical peat dome, carbon flux study from different types of peat soil planted with oil palm, nitrogen fertilisation on greenhouse gas emission from peat soil, fertilisation treatment on microbial diversity of tropical peatland for oil palm development, oil palm cultivation on tropical peatland: sink or source, and carbon pools under bilateral.

“These projects are carried out for an average of five years,’’ said Dr Lulie, who will be the first Asian to take over the International Peat Society presidency in 2016. The projects would cost some RM15mil.

For the carbon flux study, she said three 40m-tall Eddy Covariance towers had been set up in an oil palm plantation in Sibu, a logged-over forest in Betong and Maludam National Park in Lingga.

Experts from the Hokkaido University have completed the Eddy Covariance training for local researchers on maintenance, data downloading and data handling.

The towers are equipped with instruments that measure carbon flux, wind, soil moistures, relative humidity and water table.

Later, Dr Masing told reporters that he was confident that the research findings from the Tropical Peat Research Laboratory Unit would be useful to counter the various allegations and campaigns against oil palm cultivation on tropical peatland mounted by western non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

He said the NGOs’ accusations were “half truths” and that their reports on oil palm were biased as they were sponsored by interested business groups on economic rivalry due to the threat posed by palm oil to soya beans and red seeds.

“A few NGOs are sponsored by EU (European Union) countries to counter the oil palm industry,” claimed Dr Masing.

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