Start of the new damming project

This month has seen the start of the dam building project between OuTrop and CIMTROP. This is very exciting as these canals are responsible for draining the Sabangau ecosystem. The Sabangau ecosystem is a natural peat-swamp forest, which is home to many endangered and endemic animal and plant species.

In 1997 when the government in Indonesia changed, illegal logging occurred all over the place in every forest, whether it was a logging concession or a National Park. The Sabangau is a peat-swamp forest, and the method for getting wood out of the forest was by making a wooden railway. In 1997 however, when the concession ended, illegal loggers moved in and instead of building expensive railways, they dug canals. These canals run for kilometres into the forest. There are literally 1000s of these small canals, usually 1-1.5m wide and 1m deep, draining all the water out of the swamp. It is these canals which are responsible for the frequent fires we now have in this area, as naturally, peat-swamp forest are not meant to dry out – as they are swamps – and thus should be wet all year round. Before these canals were made, the forest was permanently wet all year round, even in the dry season there were puddles of water in the hollows. Thirteen years later in 2010 the forest is still been drained. The peat is degrading (its water holding capability is being lost and it can no longer support the big trees – thus many tree falls occur), the forest burns each year and the fish stock are thought to be falling. Thus, the effects of these canals are being seen all over the place and getting worse each year. This damming project is vital, in order to restore the natural hydrology of these peatlands.

The damming project started at the beginning of this month. The CIMTROP patrol team, lead by Idris is co-ordinating the dam building, and using local people from the village to build the dams.

Already 3 canals have had dams built on them this month, with the number of dams ranging for 30 to over 40 on each canal. These dams are small but very affective we hope (see pictures).

The monitoring of these canals will continue for at least 2 years, before we can access whether the dams are doing their job. We have a good team and are very positive about this project. It is hoped that this project will be a long term project. I will keep you posted on all activities.

This video shows the speed of the water leaving the forest along a 3km canal. Many dams will be built close together, in order to slow down the speed of water, and thus preventing the water exiting the forest by pushing its way round the dam as this video demonstrates when just one dam or no dam has been built.