BOH Plantations Bukit Cheeding tea garden made an inspiring backdrop for 600 runners on the 28th of May 2016. Set amidst acres of tea bushes interspersed with tall coconut and oil palm trees, participants of the 8km charity run had the unique opportunity of running through BOH’s Tea Garden which is rarely open to public. The key highlight was certainly the privileged access given to runners into a restricted section of the adjacent Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR) to fully appreciate the rationale behind the Run.
At the flag off for the run, Ms Caroline Russell, CEO of BOH Plantations said, “Many of us are not aware of this special forest with its unique flora and fauna, just off the Elite Highway. By organising the Run here with the special trail into the Forest Reserve, the public has the chance to experience a natural peat swamp forest first hand and understand the threats to it. We hope the run will help raise awareness for this delicate ecosystem which is held in balance by the peat deep beneath the surface of the land.”
All proceeds from the registration fees for BOH Eco Trail 2016 were channelled to the Global Environment Centre (GEC). GEC is a regional non-profit organisation committed to work on environmental issues of global importance. They support the protection of the environment and sustainable use of natural resources through strategic partnerships with communities and like-minded organisations. BOH has been in collaboration with GEC since 2015 to support educational initiatives for the KLNFR conservation programme.
“With the growing vulnerability of forest fires in the area, especially with the El Nino (hot and dry) season, we stand to lose this protected green lung if practical and strategic preventive measures are not stepped up and the public educated on conscientious initiatives to curb potential fire hazards that threaten the natural environment conducive for peats. A major cause of the haze of late has been the burning of peat which results in a huge amount of smoke due to incomplete combustion. With this happening at the doorstep of Kuala Lumpur, it has a direct impact on the poor air quality in the city.
“All the proceeds of the Run will be donated towards the Peatland Forest Ranger Programme. Training camps, talks and exhibitions will be organised at participating schools, including two Orang Asli primary schools, to sensitise the younger generation on this issue. In particular, this initiative aims to raise awareness of peat swamp forest conservation among the younger generation,” Russell shared.
The Run complements BOH’s other support which includes drain mapping and blocking for water flow management, training in firefighting and fire patrolling programmes that draw on the involvement of various stakeholders in the government, private and local communities. Firefighting equipment was also donated to the Bukit Cheeding Village to empower villagers to suppress potential fires while installation of the Fire Danger Rating System warning signs have provided early warning of potential fires and haze events.
Mr Faizal Parish, Director of GEC, echoed Russell’s view for urgent attention on biodiversity conservation of peat swamp forest. “Peatland forests are the most important ecosystem globally for preventing global warming and Malaysia has the third largest surface area with this type of forest. In their natural state, peat swamp forests rarely burn. However, excessive draining of water can lead to the peat being susceptible to fires.
“In recent years, fires in neighbouring areas have spread into the KLNFR and damaged part of the forest reserve. Unfortunately, many of the fires are a result of human action either directly or inadvertently such as cigarette butts being thrown out of car windows along the Elite highway. Whichever the case, this has a direct effect on human health due to the haze which results from the peat fires.
“It is our hope that the BOH Eco Trail 2016 will result in people becoming more appreciative of the unique peat swamp forest ecosystem and proactively offering to help address the risk the forest is facing. Let’s together make a difference to safeguard our natural heritage for generations to come. The KLNFR has significant potential as a conservation, education, recreation and ecotourism resource. It is also crucial for the Orang Asli communities that depend on the forest for resources,” concluded Mr Parish.
As part of the highlights during the Run, participants were treated to a showcase of Orang Asli handicrafts including how clothes are made from kulit kayu terap. All these items are made using wood and other materials sourced within KLFNR.