I remember how last year’s haze disrupted our lives. The poor air made my eyes burn and affected my everyday work. Everyone around me had similar complaints – and while all fingers pointed towards Indonesia, I knew a little more about where exactly the haze was coming from and one particular region where forests fires burned – Tesso Nilo National Park.
Tesso Nilo is a beautiful forest in the province of Riau, Indonesia, where there were once vast stretches of lowland forests. It is actually one of the most diverse forests in the world and is home to the Sumatran Elephant – a highly threatened elephant subspecies – and many other endangered species.
Haze and Tesso Nilo
Tesso Nilo also has the greatest potential for commercial timber production and plantation – a fact taken advantage of by encroachers. Would you believe it if I said that only an estimated 18% of that natural forest remains untouched by illegal development today, primarily illegal palm oil plantations? Encroachment is also largely responsible for the forest fires in Tesso Nilo, since slash and burn remains the cheapest and quickest method of clearing land.
While we tackled the poor air in Singapore last year, thousands of hotspots were detected in Indonesia’s forests and peatland regions, and Tesso Nilo was not spared. Fires ripped through the landscape causing great destruction to the already encroached areas. In fact, 491 hotspots were identified just within Tesso Nilo! This year, the fires have once again appeared. Between June and August in 2016, 43 hotposts have been detected already.
POWER OF PUBLIC SUPPORT
But the public support for Tesso Nilo has made a world of difference! Through massive funding from supporters in Singapore and the region, we were able to purchase and supply Mark-3 and Mini-Striker pump kits to the team in Tesso Nilo. Two units of the water tanks were also purchased, which are being used to bring water to the areas of fires.
I have come to Tesso Nilo to see this along with my conservation team. I can see for myself how the park’s fire brigade has been ready to face the fires with more confidence now that they are better quipped. Recent fires in Tesso Nilo have been controlled based on the team’s intensive monitoring of fires and patrolling in the fields. I am also relieved to see how they are also now better protected – proper helmets, uniforms, goggles and rubber boots ensure that they are safer while they fight the flames.
In more good news, the fire fighters have also increased in number. A fireguard team and a group of informers has been formed earlier this year. The National Park Authority Guard, WWF-Indonesia, the military and the communities around the park will work together to conduct frontline monitoring.
By itself, Tesso Nilo naturally appears to have all it needs to grow back to almost its original state. However, the forest is still at risk from human activities. I see how committed the teams on ground are to save the forests from any harm, and I hope more of us outside come together to save Tesso Nilo and the region from the destructive haze and illegal palm oil.
Join our campaign to #XtheHaze! Know who’s causing it and what you can do to help: http://bit.ly/XtheHazeBlog