The RMFR is a peat swamp forest surrounded by agriculture land mainly consisting of rice paddy and oil palm plantations.
PM.Haze’s local partner, Global Environment Center (GEC), has been supporting the Government of Selangor and the Selangor State Forestry Department to manage the reserve since 1998. One of the key challenge is the decrease of water level in the peat swamp caused by drainage of water by the oil palm plantations outside the reserve. During dry season, the dried peat catches fire easily. To reduce the impact of the drainage, canals blocks are built to dam up the stream and maintain a desirable water level within the forest reserve, meanwhile supplying the excess water to the surrounding plantations. These canal blocks will keep the peat swamp wet and are the most cost-effective measures to prevent fire.
The canal-blocking project was crowd-funded and we would like to express our deepest appreciation for those who donated to the project. We raised S$1750 in two days, which went entirely to pay for the cost of canal-blocking and planting 30 native Tenggek Burung trees.
The guided tour through the forest was about 2 hours. Some parts of peat were chest-deep and difficult to walk in, with tangled roots under the black water. When we walked in the swamp, the bottom felt very soft and spongy. We enjoyed ourselves having intimate contact with nature.
PEAT SWAMP TOUR
It was definitely the first time for most of us to wade through a peat forest.
According to Raj from GEC, Raja Musa Forest Reserve (RMFR) is part of a huge peatland area larger than Singapore. Peat swamp forests, also known as peatland forests, are unique wetland ecosystems where partially decomposed organic matter accumulates over thousands of years under waterlogged conditions to form carbon-rich soil, or peat. Besides serving as a source of water supply, peat swamp forests also serves as habitat for numerous flora and fauna including many threatened and endangered species.
We tried our hands on planting rice. The mud was nice and warm and we enjoyed excellent view of the never-ending rice paddy. We also saw how the rice fields use a mix of river and peat water for irrigation.
RMFR and the adjacent areas have a long history of fire occurrences. Besides the community-based rehabilitation program where villagers are involved in fire prevention measures, additional incentives for community to protect the forest is created through the local agro-tourism. The Sungai Sireh agro-tourism homestay program started in 1989. Villagers generate additional income by hosting tourists all over the world. The program makes protecting peat forest easy: locals are incentivised to protect the peat forest for tourists.