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Malaysia-based palm oil company Sime Darby Plantation Berhad (SDP) has announced plans to restore 400ha of peatland.

In place of replanting oil palm on the peatland at SDP’s operation in Sarawak, East Malaysia, the area would be restored to a functional peat eco-system, the company said on 26 November.

The project would involve working in partnership with the Forest Department Sarawak (FDS), which would provide the seedlings and technical expertise, SDP said.

In the first phase of the plan, SDP said 30,000 seedlings provided by the FDS would be planted on a 50ha site at the company’s Lavang Estate starting in January.

The company said the project was an integral part of SDP’s peatland rehabilitation initiative, co-funded by the Malaysian Palm Oil Green Conservation Foundation (MPOGCF).

Through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed in March, MPOGCF had agreed to contribute RM1.48M (US$317,222) for SDP to rehabilitate and restore the 50ha peatland, the company said.

SDP said a total of RM300,000 (US$64,300) would be used to pay for the seedlings and FDS’ technical expertise while the balance would be used for biodiversity assessments, planting and maintenance of the area, community engagement and other related project activities.

SDP group managing director Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha said restoring and rehabilitating peatland areas cultivated with oil palms was part of the company’s commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

As peat areas had high-water tables and were susceptible to flooding, the project’s main challenge was the availability of suitable plant species, SDP said. To date, FDS had supplied 10 species of peatland related trees such as Ramin, Gelam, Pulai, Nyatuh and Medang.