Written by Dinora (BNF’s Education Staff)
Forest fires and smoke feel like a routine disaster in Borneo. Since July 2019, Palangka Raya and other cities have been smothered by smoke. Drought and a long history of land mismanagement are the main causes of fire on peatland. Burning, which is often carried out for economic reasons, has a huge impact on the community, especially on the environment, health and economy.
Students from SMKN 5 Palangka Raya listening Ridi and Lingga presentation about health impact from smoke
Photo by Dinora/BNF
Many people thought that forest fires and smoke are normal as they happen every dry season. So, they didn’t care about the potential impact on health from the smoke. Sebangau Rangers, a group of teenagers living near Sebangau National Park peat-swamp forest, realized how dangerous these conditions are and are trying to raise awareness about the impact on health, starting with their friends at school. They can’t be at the frontline to fight the fires, but they know there’s another way to contribute to the fight.
Ridi and Lingga, members of Sebangau Rangers, initiated a socialization event to explain the health effects of the smoke and encourage their friends in SMKN 5 Palangka Raya (the local high school) to wear N95 masks. They gave a presentation to 41 students, in collaboration with the Student Council, encouraging their friends to start a small action by raising awareness about health impact the smoke and reminding them to reduce outdoor activities. It was a great action taken by these teenagers near Sebangau National Park.
“My vision is disturbed when there is so much smoke. It is difficult to breathe and my eyes feel very sore when exposed to the smog,” Aulia, a member of Sebangau Rangers, said about his bad experience during the smoke.
Besides raising awareness, this socialisation activity has been a learning opportunity for members of the Sebangau Rangers team to design an activity, starting from thinking about the concept of the event, creating presentation materials, and learning to speak in front of their peers. Feelings of nervousness and awkwardness were still visible, but what is so impressive is the spirit of real action by young people who want to contribute to protecting the environment. Ridi and Lingga also promoted the Sebangau Rangers’ activities. They want to invite new members to learn together and develop their role in the community. They are so enthusiastic to learn new things related to the environment. In the future, it is hoped that the Rangers can truly become conservationists and guardians of the forest to preserve Sebangau.