Peatland rangers to the rescue

AS agents of change in environmental preservation, students can inspire family, friends and fellow Malaysians to do the same.

That is the objective of the Peatland Forest Ranger (PFR) programme organised by the Global Environment Centre (GEC), in collaboration with HSBC Bank Malaysia Berhad (HSBC Malaysia), the Selangor Forestry Department and the respective district education offices.

Peatlands, said GEC director Faizal Parish, are the most important carbon stock on the planet, storing twice as much carbon as the biomass of all the world’s forests combined.

“Selangor is home to the North Selangor Peat Swamp Forest, one of Malaysia’s largest remaining peat swamp forests covering more than 80,000 hectares.

“We need to protect and restore our peatlands as a nature-based solution to climate change.

“Hopefully, through the PFR programme, secondary and primary school students will become agents of change in environmental preservation,” he said during the virtual closing ceremony of the programme on Aug 4.

For three months, the programme saw students from across three districts in Selangor participating in activities to raise awareness of the importance of peatland conservation.

Held from December 2020 to March this year, the Interactive Online Learning Session for the PFR programme came with four activities that drew the participation of over 180 secondary and primary school students from Kuala Langat, Kuala Selangor and Hulu Selangor.

The first activity in the programme was an interactive online learning session series on peatland forests, which ended with an online quiz.

Poster perfect: Aisyah Nadhirah (inset) receiving her prize for her winning artwork.Poster perfect: Aisyah Nadhirah (inset) receiving her prize for her winning artwork.

This was followed by a poster competition themed “Peatland Biodiversity and Climate Change”, a video competition, and an essay competition themed “Voice of Future: Peatlands and Humans”.

Nuralhirah Syahirah Suhaili, 18, of Kolej Vokasional Kuala Selangor won the online quiz.

Aisyah Nadhirah Mazlan, 18, of SMK Rantau Panjang, and Zara Zulaika Anak Rosi, 7, of SK (Asli) Bukit Cheding, secured the top spots in the poster competition for the secondary and primary school categories, respectively.

Aisyah Nadhirah’s poster captured the essence of peatland and biodiversity conservation, while Zara Zulaikha’s zoomed in on a picturesque scenery of a healthy peat swamp forest.

SMK Rantau Panjang’s Team Titanium comprising Muhammad Azrul Aiman Md Jajam, 14, and Nur Azurn Hadawiah Abdullah, 15, took home the trophy in the video competition for showcasing creative ways of transforming waste plastic containers into flowerpots.

In the essay competition, Mah Zhi Jing, 16, of SMK Raja Muda Musa, won the judges over with a piece on how local communities can help increase awareness of the sustainable management of the Raja Musa Forest Reserve.The winners each took home a cash prize of RM200, a trophy and a certificate.HSBC Malaysia chief executive officer Stuart Milne said the bank has long supported the management, protection and restoration of the peatlands given the interlocking role it plays in the tropical rainforest ecosystem.

“It’s inspiring to see the teachers and students so invested. Engaging in activities like these certainly leaves an imprint on the importance of wetlands as the natural solution to tackle climate change problems,” he said. He also expressed hope that the programme would widen the intergenerational circle of those willing to take action in preserving and protecting the peatlands.

Kuala Selangor District Education Department assistant district officer (Student Talent Development) Mohd Fathudin Mohd Aladin said the initiative had benefited the participating students. “It helped increase their performance, especially in the community service assessment of their co-curricular activities,” he said, adding that the education district offices welcome cooperation and support in driving such programmes.

The virtual ceremony, which was officiated by HSBC Malaysia Corporate Sustainability country head Devika Rajamanickam and attended by students and teachers from across the three districts, was hosted in conjunction with World Nature Conservation Day celebrated annually on July 28.

Since the PFR programme was launched in 2011, more than 1,000 young Malaysian students have been involved in various environmental activities and projects.

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