Indonesia runs $1 million challenge to map peatlands

By GovInsider

Crucial tool for managing the country’s annual forest fires.

The Indonesian Government is running an ambitious competition to map the country’s peat forests, a crucial step towards bringing the annual forest fires under control.

The Indonesian Peat Prize awards $1 million for finding a new, accurate, and faster way to map the extent and thickness of Indonesia’s peatlands.

The competition is looking for “the world’s best scientists and engineers to apply existing and novel technologies” to find a solution.

Indonesia has the largest peat forests in the world, but large swathes have been burnt for oil palm and pulpwood industries.

Last year, this led to losses worth $9 billion, mass respiratory diseases, and polluted air spread across Southeast Asia.

President Joko Widodo has made it a priority to properly managing and restoring the peatlands. He has banned the clearing of land and set up a new Peatland Restoration Agency to recover the forests destroyed by last year’s fires.

However, there is currently no accurate map of the location and depth of these peatlands, leaving Indonesian officials without tools to manage them effectively.

“We’re looking for a method that’s fast, accurate and affordable,” said Priyo Kardono, head of Indonesia’s Geospatial Information Agency, at the launch of challenge last month.

“Without a decent map, managing our peatlands is not going to be easy.”

Registration for the Indonesian Peat Prize is open till May 2016. Participants will then have a year to develop and test their product in Indonesia.