200 VOLUNTEERS JOIN HANDS TO PLANT 600 TREES TO SAVE OUR PEAT SWAMP FOREST
An ongoing initiative to rehabilitate the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve
SELANGOR, 6 October 2018 – The Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR) is a 960-hectare peatland forest. In 2017, about 95 hectares of the peat swamp forest was razed by fires due to its combustible nature as well as the hot and dry spell that commonly hits Malaysia. Peatland fires lead to the loss of forest resources, biodiversity and generate GHG emissions and smoke which affect the health of local communities in addition to economic losses.
To conserve and rehabilitate this delicate ecosystem, 200 volunteers including 40 school children from SK (Asli) Busut Baru and SK (Asli) Bukit Cheeding, local communities, NGOs and corporate representatives, joined hands to save the KLNFR peat swamp forest. Together, they planted 600 trees of Tenggek Burung (Melicope lunu-ankenda), a pioneer species, on a 1-hectare plot of Forest Compartment 6, KLNFR. The volunteers also learnt about the importance of the KLNFR ecosystem to its surrounding areas and its link to issues such as climate change. This awareness is crucial to change, and events like these are an important avenue to educate the masses about biodiversity and sustainable development.
The tree planting initiative is part of the ongoing Peatland Water Management and Forest Rehabilitation in Kuala Langat North Peat Swamp Forest Landscape, which focuses on peat hydrology management, fire prevention and control, local indigenous and community participation and private sector partnership to support the implementation of the Forest Fire Management Plan for Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve and Kuala Langat South Forest Reserve 2017-2021.
Since 2015, key achievements include:
- Developing and implementing a Forest Fire Management Plan, Fire Monitoring and Patrolling Strategies (such as installation of Fire Danger Rating System, piezometers and local community based patrol teams), Canal Mapping & Peat Soil Assessment and Blocks Construction.
- Empowerment of the local community through various trainings, the BOH Eco Trail Run, Junior Peatland Forest Ranger Programme, setting up of a Community Tree Nursery, Tree Planting Programmes as well as maintenance of planted sites.
YBhg Dato’ Dr. Hj. Mohd Puat bin Dahalan, Director of the Selangor State Forestry Department who officiated the event said, “By planting trees, we are contributing to the conservation and rehabilitation of Malaysia’s unique peat swamp forest ecosystem which is also crucial to the Orang Asli communities living in the vicinity as they depend on the forest for resources. It’s heartening that local communities, private corporations and even students have joined hands to help the authorities to address and safeguard our environmental treasure – the peat swamp forest.”
Highlights at the event also included the launch of the Sahabat Hutan Gambut Kuala Langat Utara (SHGKLU) (Friends of Kuala Langat North Peat Swamp Forest), a ‘peat guardian team’ formed among the local indigenous people from two villages, namely, Kampung Bukit Cheeding and Kampung Pulau Kempas. They will work together to address the issues and assist on the conservation and protection of KLNFR and surrounding landscape.
“Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter that is unique to natural areas called peatlands. Peat forms in wet conditions where high water table and acidic conditions slow the rate of decomposition. Peat contains 90% water and 10% organic matter. Drainage of the peatlands leads to degradation and fires. Peatland fires are hard to extinguish as they burn deep beneath the surface,” said Mr. Faizal Parish, Director of the Global Environment Centre (GEC).
He also added that this programme provides a platform for the indigenous community to be actively involved in the rehabilitation of degraded peatland, buffer zone activities and implementing forest fire management plan in KLNFR. The formation of Friends of Kuala Langat North Peat Swamp Forest will help the government in its efforts to manage the peatland sustainably. The community living close to the peatland will be the first to be alerted in the case of fire and can support immediate action.
Meanwhile, Ms. Caroline Russell, Deputy Chairman & CEO of BOH Plantations said that she is encouraged to see the young generation come forward to support peat swamp forest conservation. “By inculcating an attitude of environmental ownership and joint accountability among Malaysians and the young people, we can certainly help save and preserve our beautiful peat swamp forests. BOH’s involvement in this initiative began officially in 2015 through our collaboration with Global Environment Centre (GEC). In these last three years, we are indeed pleased to have been a part of positive environmental change that has been made possible through our project partners, local authorities and local communities,” added Russell.
Project Manager of Gamuda Land Tanjung 12, Ms. Tan Jun Jing, said that they believe in supporting local communities which are committed to caring for their environment and making a difference. In this case, we are happy that the Orang Asli of Friends of Kuala Langat North Peat Swamp Forest are willing to spend their time and energy to rehabilitate the degraded peat swamp area in KLNFR.
After the formalities of the event, participants and guest were treated to a showcase of an exhibition on peatland forest and the achievements of the collaborative programme as well as Orang Asli handicrafts at the Bukit Cheeding Community Hall and a special ‘tea’ treat by BOH.