Writer: Basil Foo
Published: Fri, 24 Feb 2012
KUALA SELANGOR: Villagers whose livelihood is linked to the Raja Musa Forest Reserve have agreed to work together with the authorities to safeguard the area.
“We will be keeping an eye on the forest and will report any encroachment to the authorities,” said Sungai Sireh Home Stay manager Abu Bakar Moin.
Abu Bakar, whose business includes providing guided tours into the reserve, pointed out the villagers’ rice bowl would be affected if the peat and mangrove forest were destroyed.
The change in mindset among the villagers came about through the efforts of the Global Environment Centre (GEC) which has been working with villages and the Selangor Forestry Department.
The Malaysian non-profit organisation had been holding awareness campaigns on the importance of protecting the biodiversity of the area since 2008.
Two programmes, Friends of the Peatland Forest and Peatlands Forest Ranger, were initiated here by GEC last Saturday in conjunction with World Wetlands Day 2012.
Some 200 villagers and students from Kampung Raja Musa, Kampung Bestari Jaya, Kampung Seri Tiram and Kampung Sungai Sireh took part in the programmes.
“Since 2008, about 4,000 volunteers have helped replant trees and monitor the area,” said GEC director Faizal Parish.
Four separate teams have also been set up among the villagers here to combat peat fires caused by illegal land clearing.
The move has received the thumbs-up from Kuala Selangor District Council (MDKS) president Noraini Roslan.
She said villagers could be instrumental in preventing illegal logging and peat fires caused by burning, which has been one of the root causes of haze.
“While it’s easy to clear land by burning, it takes a long time to replant trees to return the forest to its former state,” said Selangor Forestry Department director Yusoff Muda.
He said participation of local villagers and students in the two GEC programmes was vital.
They will be educated on the importance of peat land forest conservation and trained to report to the authorities cases of intrusion by outsiders into the forest reserve.
Yusoff pointed out that the 80,000 hectares of peat land are important as they help to prevent floods.
“The peat land acts like a sponge which absorbs rainwater. It is also one of the main water sources for padi fields in Sekinchan and Sabak Bernam,” he said.
Over 1,000 tree seedlings were planted during the event as part of GEC’s move to rehabilitate over 1,000 hectares of forest destroyed over the past decade due to illegal agricultural activities.
“This is an opportunity for the public to get involved and hopefully more groups will lend their support to this project,” said Parish.
The event was attended by Kajang state assemblyperson Lee Kim Sin who is also the deputy executive councillor for Environment .
He said the state has allocated RM20 million for rehabilitation of peat land forests like the Raja Musa Forest Reserve under the Selangorku grants.