Overview of the Sustainable Uses of Peat Soil in Malaysia with Some Relevant Geotechnical Assessments
AbstractPeat soil is an important ecosystem that provides a significant contribution to the global climate stability. In Malaysia, peat soils are considered as a soil with little economic benefit, apart from it being used for agricultural activity. The total world coverage of peat soil is about thirty million hectares with Canada and Russia having the largest distribution of peat (Zainorabiddin,2010). More than sixty percent of the world’s tropical peat lands are found in South-East Asia (Lette,2006). Most notable are the large peat land on the islands of Borneo (belonging to Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei) and Sumatra (Indonesia). However, there are also significant occurrences in other parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. The main contributory functions and benefits of peat soil are within the engineering disciplines of hydrology, agriculture, social-economics, biodiversity habitats and carbon sequestration. Peat was used in temperate climates (especially in Finland, Ireland, Sweden and UK) as a fuel to generate electricity and heat. Therefore peat can be considered as a renewable energy source but this will be very detrimental to the market of genuine renewables. The western coastal lowlands of Malaysia (such as Kukup) are mangroves that represent the initiation of peat soil formation. Such areas provide the natural habitat of mangrove forests. It also fixes more carbon from the atmosphere than is released and approximately one-quarter of the carbon stored in land plants and soils. On the other hand, peat is one of the problematic or challenging foundation soil of poor quality due to it’s very high water content, high compressibility and low shear strength. Peat consists of decomposed plant fragments and the unfavourable characteristics of peat soil deposits make them unsuitable for making sustainable infrastructure development for varied engineering projects. This paper therefore gives an overview of the pros and cons debate of sustainability aspects and in the light of the challenges it poses to infrastructure development in Malaysia.
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