Raja Musa Forest Reserve

Raja Musa Forest Reserve (RMFR), Selangor, Malaysia

How to stop the haze and have fun at the same time?
Here are the three ingredients: a group of passionate people, a peat forest, and a warm, welcoming homestay.

We overcame a long journey, hard labour and the scorching sun to block a 3.5 meters wide and 1.5 meters deep canal. Our dam helped maintain a high water level in the peatland to prevent Haze causing fires.

We left our worries behind and waded through the peat swamp forest reserve and supported local agro-tourism. The wonderful 3-days People’s Expedition to Experience Peat (PEEP) at the Raja Musa Forest Reserve (RMFR) in Selangor, Malaysia allowed us to deepen our understanding of peatland conservation in the local ecology and economic context and to feel accomplished and more bonded than ever.

Location

Programme

  • Visit of conservation area
  • Tree planting
  • Canal blocking
  • Trek in peat swamp forest
  • Visit of local agriculture and discussion with local community
  • Visit of palm oil plantation (to be confirmed)

Registration & Fundraising

Registration & fundraising are now closed for our Malaysian expedition.
Thank you to all the participants and donors who supported the project!!!

The next trip will be in 2018. Dates are to be confirmed, stay tuned!

Our local partner

The Global Environment Centre (GEC) was established in 1998 to work on environmental issues of global importance. The Centre is registered in Malaysia as a non-profit organisation but works regionally and internationally both directly and through many partners. It supports information exchange and capacity building as well as undertakes strategic projects particularly in developing countries. GEC has been supporting the Government of Selangor and the Selangor State Forestry Department to manage the Raja Musa Forest Reserve since 1998.

The story of Raja Musa Forest Reserve

The Rehabilitation of Raja Musa Forest Reserve is a collaborative programme among Global Environment Centre, Selangor State Government and Selangor State Forestry Department to secure corporate sponsorship to rehabilitate 1,000 hectares of degraded land within a 23,000 hectares peat swamp forest.

The programme includes a range of actions includingre prevention, restoration of natural water table, and encouragement of natural regeneration as well as replanting of severely degraded areas. The programme involves the engagement of local communities and volunteers in carrying out the seedling procurement,enrichment planting, post planting treatment and monitoring of threats.

Past expeditions

September 2017
PEEP-2017-09

Participants voices

Testimonials-Chevon
Chevon

What a kampong life experience!

Testimonials-YuShan
Yu Shan

A once in a lifetime experience!

Testimonials-CherKian
Cher Kian

There is a lot that we can lose
if we do not protect the peatlands.

Testimonials-Lucie
Lucie

A crazy Kampong immersion
and a rich human experience
which directly benefits
to the local community

Testimonials-LJ
LJ

I was glad to join the People’s Expedition to Experience Peat (PEEP) because I was sick of whining about the haze and wished to take active steps to learn about why haze happens, and therefore be empowered to make it stop!

Testimonials-Shawn
Shawn

Understand the ground level conditions
and be able to see the rise in water level
on the spot after fun sweating work!!

Highlight #1 Canal Blocking

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.

We filled up about 100 sand bags to fill the 1.5 meters deep canal under the scotching sun.

About 100 unites of mangrove poles were used to build the “casing”. We immersed ourselves in the cooling peat water to tie up the poles with wires.

A blue canopy was used to wrap and hold the sand bags. We had to resist great force from the fast flowing water stream while arranging the sandbags.

Six experienced locals can build two such dams in one afternoon, while 20 of us struggled with one for 3 hours.

Well, there is a learning curve!

We were really happy after 3 hours of hard labouring. Look how strong the canal block is! It held the weight of all 20 of us.

Ta-da our canal block (3°30’23.43″N, 101°26’41.09″E)!

Note how the dam helps to raise the water level in the canal and thereby keeping the surrounding peat moist.

Highlight #2 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.

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 can store large amount of water because its structure is not very firm and has a high pore volume. Even in the dry season, water level in the peat swamp forest is quite high.

The distinct black colour of the peat water is due to tannin from decomposing organic matter. The organic matter under the water decomposes very slowly as bacteria struggle to survive in this very acidic and oxygen depleted environment. Because the decomposition is slow, organic matter accumulates and peat grows over time. This makes peatland excellent carbon storage.

In about 100,000 years, peat will turn into coal!

The peat landscape is in stark contrast with the oil palm plantations nearby. Oil palm plantations on peat are created by draining the peatland. Notice the drastic transformation of the landscape. According to Raj from GEC, the exposed root is a sign of peat subsidence, a result of the release of huge amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. Peatland is therefore not suitable for large scale agriculture and no new peatland should be converted to grow oil palm or timber.

Highlight #3 Homestay

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.

PEEP-10We 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.

PEEP-11Pak Rashid and Mak Young hosted the girls. Pak Rashid used to work in Singapore for a few years and really likes to take photos with his guests. So we took a lot of photos!