Petaling Jaya, 30 March 2023 - A 50-hectare area in Bintulu, Sarawak, will be restored into a functioning rehabilitated peat ecosystem in the next two years.
Malaysian Palm Oil Green Conservation Foundation (MPOGCF) has agreed to contribute RM1.48 million to fund the project to plant and maintain suitable tree species in Sime Darby Plantation's Lavang estate. This project is expected to become a peatland rehabilitation model for academics and researchers. It will benefit the ecosystem and biodiversity of the area, as well as water and fire management systems.
Chief Sustainability Officer of Sime Darby Plantation Berhad (SDP), Rashyid Redza Anwarudin said, the latest collaboration with MPOGCF aligns with SDP’s No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation (NDPE) commitment which the company has adopted since 2016, and SDP’s latest target to achieve net-zero emissions across its entire value chain by 2050.
“One of the key approaches we are taking to achieve our net-zero ambition is through land use transformation which include reforesting and rehabilitating non-productive agriculture land as a nature-based solution to increase carbon sinks. By restoring damaged peatlands, we are sequestering carbon, enhancing biodiversity, and reducing our overall environmental impact,” said Rashyid.
To achieve its net-zero target, SDP has decided to reforest a total of 400ha of peat plantations in East Malaysia. Ever since its NDPE commitment in 2016, there has been no new development of oil palm on peatland in SDP’s operations, regardless of the depth or location of the peat.
For its existing planted areas on peatland, SDP conducts drainability assessment procedures five years prior to replanting to assess the land status. If replanting is not viable, the area would be rehabilitated to its original peat ecosystem. SDP is planning to reforest more areas in its existing plantation in the near future.
“We are pleased to collaborate with MPOGCF on this impactful initiative. As with many of our tree-planting projects in the past, we are delighted to have the opportunity to work together with yet another like-minded partner who share our passion for environmental conservation,” added Rasyhid.
MPOGCF General Manager Zamakhshari Muhamad believed the signing of the MOA with SDP signified the Malaysian palm oil industry’s commitment to ensuring the rehabilitation of peatlands that can no longer be replanted into its natural ecosystem.
“Changing the status of forest reserves and peatland areas for oil palm plantations is no longer permitted, thus why existing oil palm on peatlands must be regulated more strictly.
“With the development and implementation of this project alongside SDP, MPOGCF aims to make this peatland rehabilitation model a pioneer in the industry in terms of the benefits it holds including carbon sequestration, prevention of peat fires and haze, provision of wildlife corridors as well as areas with high conservation value,” he added.
As a model of peat rehabilitation, the project will be testing the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s best management practices for peatland management and will also be a research platform for internal researchers as well as academicians from Universiti Putra Malaysia Kampus Bintulu Sarawak, the Forestry Department and the Malaysian Palm Oil Board.
The parties also hope to increase awareness and share knowledge on peat ecosystems with neighbouring communities and other stakeholders, besides creating job opportunities for the local community via the establishment of forest tree nurseries and tree planting programmes with interested stakeholders, including villagers and school children.