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30 Jan 2017

Belarus to launch peatland restoration project in September

MINSK, 30 January (BelTA) – A $4.3 million peatland restoration project will be launched in Belarus in September, Nikolai Svidinsky, the head of the biological and landscape diversity department at the Belarusian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, told reporters on 30 January, BelTA has learned.

“A $4.3 million project to improve the management of forest and peatland ecosystems is to be launched in Belarus as part of the large UNDP-GEF Peatlands-2 project. The funds will be spent on peatland restoration,” Nikolai Svidinsky noted. He explained that the money will be used to develop the concept of the project and perform works to improve the hydrological regime and facilitate the reforestation of these areas. The project is currently at the national registration stage.

The head of the biological and landscape diversity department said that $4.3 million has been provided by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). “This is a contribution to the conservation of our ecosystems, including swamps, through international technical assistance. Peatlands are a unique treasure for the entire continent,” Nikolai Svidinsky stressed and pointed out that the project will be implemented by 2030.

The specialist said that a number of events were conducted within the framework of the Peatlands-2 project in Belarus in 2016. For instance, works were carried out to create a high-yielding herb layer on an area of 494ha in Beryoza District, Brest Oblast. Common alder trees were planted on 213ha near Lida. A total of 14.45ha of peatland was rewetted. Over 140,000ha of exhausted peatland needs rewetting. The work will require an estimated $10 million.

Nikolai Svidinsky pointed out that the peatland restoration project to be implemented in Belarus will not be the first one of its kind. “Some 28,000ha of peatland damaged as a result of peat production was restored as part of the Peatlands-1 project,” he said.

Belarus adopted a strategy for conservation and sustainable use of peatlands in 2016. The document points to major challenges related to the conservation and sustainable use of peat swamps, describes their current status, and outlines the expected results of the implementation of the strategy. For instance, Belarus plans to ensure conservation of 684,000ha of peatlands in their original state, study 179,000ha of peatlands, and work out measures for their conservation. The document provides for restoring at least 15% (75,000ha) of the damaged peatlands and maintaining the amount of carbon and fresh water in the swamps at 500 million tonnes and seven billion cubic meters respectively. Special attention is given to the preservation of the habitats of wild animals and plants listed in the Red Book of the Republic of Belarus. The strategy also envisages measures to achieve reproduction of cranberry at some 10,700 tonnes per year.

Apart from that, the document specifies the procedure for classification of peatlands by intended use for the period until 2030. The government agencies and organizations are to bear in mind the provisions of the strategy and the established peatland classification procedure in drafting state programs.

To date, some 863,000ha of peatlands in Belarus (including 684,000ha of studied peatlands) exist in their original or close to original state.

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