Australia, Indonesia back Kalimantan forest plan
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia and Indonesia on Sunday signed a deal that aims to preserve 70,000 hectares (173,000 acres) of peat forest in Indonesia's Kalimantan region, re-flood 200,000 hectares of dried peat land and plant up to 100 million trees.
Australia would contribute A$30 ($22 million) to the project, which aims to raise up to A$100 million over four years and cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 700 million tonnes over 30 years, Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said in a statement.
A failed 1990s plan to convert 1 million hectares of Kalimantan's peat swamp forests into rice fields sucked dry huge areas of cleared forest, leaving a combustible substance that burns in the dry season and sends a choking haze billowing across the region.
"The deforestation and burning of Indonesia's vast peat lands is the largest single source of its greenhouse gas emissions," Downer said.
A declaration was signed by Downer and his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirajuda to establish the project, which would work with other countries, international non-government organizations and the private sector to attract funding.