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For Peat's sake !!

Peatlands are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store. Destroying it implies releasing tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere. Encourage green financing and involve the local communities to reverse the process.

A map showing the global peatlands
Estimated global distribution of Peatlands

Source: IUCN

All of a sudden there is a flurry of news discussing and defining peatlands. Every other country in the world is rushing to find their share of the wetland or building association to achieve it collectively. One of the primary reasons being its strong association with climate change. This type of land is critical and crucial in preventing as well as mitigating climate change. With the global atmosphere witnessing periodic heat waves, this process also provides an overall cooling effect.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines Peatlands as , “peat soil and the wetland habitats growing on the surface.”

The year long waterlogging means slow decomposition of the plants. This occurs to such an extent that dead plants then accumulate to form peat. Hence the carbon the plants had absorbed remains stored within. Therefore this process and the landscape becomes a major source of mitigating climate crisis.

Peatlands which is a type of wetland can be found in almost all countries and are known to cover 3% of the global land surface. It can permanently lock carbon as long as it remains wet. IUCN also emphasises that it is the largest natural terrestrial carbon store. It is said to store more carbon than any other vegetation types in the world.

Dianna Kopansky, Global Peatlands Initiative Coordinator at UN Environment says, “Peatlands cover less than 3% of the earth’s land surface, but they contain twice as much carbon as in the world’s forests.”

Its sponge like quality means - releasing water gradually. It can prevent flooding and drought.

The world’s largest peatland is beneath the forests of Congo Basin.

Damaging this type of wetlands implies releasing large volumes of stored greenhouse gas thereby increasing the overall temperature. Loss of biodiversity is another cause of worry. Agricultural activities, construction by draining the wetlands and other development activities are the primary cause of destroying these wetlands.

It is reported that in 2020 alone drained peatlands resulted in the 53 million tonnes of CO2 emission, which is seven percent of all emissions in Germany.

Hence conservation and preservation of peatlands is a major parameter to achieve SDGs. This is a primary Nature Based Solutions to mitigating climate crisis. Wetlands International suggest that rewetting 50 million hectares of peatlands worldwide by 2050 to halter the pace of emission. This will allow the peatlands to resume its role as the carbon sink.

What is lacking is identifying the peatlands on a global scale. In India, for example they have been located in Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, North Sikkim and some parts of Western Ghats.

While forests receive more attention as a strategy to mitigate climate change, others like the grasslands, mangroves and peatlands do not receive enough attention. One other reason being peatlands carry within it negative connotation : swamped areas or bogged down.

In Europe, too, peatlands are massively deteriorating. A project is currently underway to build a European Peatlands Initiative. It is being implemented alongwith the Global peatlands initiative under UNEP. The objective is to provide the peatlands rich countries with institutional capacities to deal with the loss while also sustainably managing it by involving multiple stakeholders.

To know more about the project: Building a European Peatlands Alliance

Suggesting some ways and means to facilitate the process:

1. Garnering public and private finance to secure financial resources necessary for conserving the huge masses of land

2. Initiate green jobs through necessary training and knowledge transfer which will not just increase employment but will help in dealing with the problem since man power will be readily available

3. Encourage more research and scientific innovation to identify peat and maintain it.

4. Communicate these concepts in easy language and in a more interactive manner to draw the attention of more people.

5. Involve the local communities which will will give them ownership as well as seasonal livelihood.

Peatlands are rare and unique ecosystem which despite covering less ground actually has the largest impact.

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