Fires in peat soils have been identified as a major contributor to transboundary haze pollution in the region. 60% of the world’s tropical peatlands are found in Southeast Asia, covering an estimated area of 24 million hectares. Of this, Indonesia has about 70% of the region’s peatlands.
Drainage and unsustainable management practices have made peatlands vulnerable to fire. Peat soil, which is comprised of partly decomposed plant material, can easily burn as soon as the water is drained out and the peat dries up. Peat fires are difficult to suppress as they occur under the ground. Peat fires also produce very thick smoke haze and release a high amount of carbon.
The land and forest fires in 1997-1998, 2002and 2005 in Southeast Asia have destroyed more than 3 million hectares of peatlands.
The ASEAN Environment Ministers in June 2002 discussed actions to be taken for fire prevention and control in peatlands. The ASEAN Peatland Management Initiative (APMI) was developed with various partners and endorsed by the Senior Officials in February 2003.
Under the APMI, the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy (APMS) covering the period 2006-2020 has been developed to guide the countries to sustainably manage peatlands and reduce fires and associated haze within the framework of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. The APMS was endorsed by the ASEAN Environment Ministers in November 2006 in Cebu, Philippines.