Building dams to stop fires in the Sabangau Forest

Conservation Blog

Written by Desi Natalia (BNF’s Communications Officer)

At the beginning of the year, BNF received a grant from the Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund (ICCTF) to expand our work for land-based mitigation through canal blocking, seedling nursery, reforestation and support of local patrol and fire-fighting teams. We are focusing our efforts to reduce deforestation and forest degradation and to promote peatland and forest management.

The BNF Conservation Team have been preparing to block another eight man-made canals in the Sabangau Forest since March. These canals drain the peat-swamp and make it susceptible to forest fires during the dry season.

Transport the materials into the forest Photo by Marta Bina/BNF

The first step was to map the location of the canals, which we have named Bahkan, Kayun, Agung, Kartika, Jumri, Yali, Ujau, and Padang. During this time we have transported all the materials to build the dams from the local village of Kereng Bangkirai into the forest. Our team received help to transport the materials from a group of 10 people from Kereng.

But we faced problems along the way. The water levels in the canals are very low as we are now going into the dry season so it is more difficult to float the wooden planks and other materials into the forest. Fallen trees also blocked the path. Although it took longer than expected, the team overcame the challenges and managed to get all necessary materials into the forest ready to start building new dams this month.

Before we started to build the dams, we carried out hydrology monitoring in three of the canals: Ujau, Yali, and Jumri. This is so we can determine how effective the dams are in reducing water loss and rewetting the peat-swamp forest. We will continue to monitor the hydrology after the dams have been built.

This month alone we will build 44 new dams. Using the same method we will go into the second phase of dam-building in June. Canal Bahkan will be the longest canal that we will block; at a length of 12 km. Since 2014 we have built 26 dams along this canal and plan to build another 21 dams this year.
Our biggest threat in Sabangau is forest fires and these dams are crucial to keep the peat-swamp wet and prevent the forest burning every year. As we all know prevention is better than cure.


Transport the materials into the forest Photo by Marta Bina/BNF