A Young Indonesian’s Creative Approach: Peatland Fires and Reforestation

In May 2017 I visited Sungai Tohor on the Island of Tebingtinggi. The visit was organised by with the Singapore group People’s Movement to Stop the Haze – PMHaze.

A view of the port at Sungai Tohor

This area is within the Kabupaten of Meranti in Indonesia’s Riau Province. I’ve written numerous pieces and a short story about the challenges faced by the people who live in this area.

While there I met a man whose insight into the problems facing his community impressed me greatly.


Izul Azri Fatra and Russell Darnley

Later, I will be writing more about the work of PMHaze in the Sungai Tohor area, this post is devoted to the work of GEMAST, but I will let Izul Azri Fatra tell the story.

The Story of GEMAST

I am Izul Azri Fatra, often called Azri, I am the head of Gemast (Young Generation Sungai Tohor)

A few GEMAST members

GEMAST (Generasi Muda Sungai Tohor) is an organization engaged in the environmental field. In this context, over recent years I have frequently encountered peatland fires in several villages, especially in the vicinity of the Tebingtinggi Timur. I for one have been directly involved in firefighting.

Azri fighting a smouldering peatland fire. Such fires can burn for weeks beneath the surface

In evaluating the situation I believe that the fires have been the work of human hands, so I hope in future the area where I live is no longer responsible for smoke blowing to other areas. Much damage is sustained when a fire occurs, its impact on health is bad, its destroys forest sustainability and beauty, and many habitats within forest are burned to extinction .

Replanting peatland rainforest trees

Given these circumstances GEMAST began carrying out environmental awareness campaigns by planting natural timber in several places of peatland to:

  • motivate the community,
  • protect the environment and
  • develop awareness of the importance of protecting the forest.

We also plant natural timber species in the vicinity of community settlements. We have also developed a mangroves nursery to overcome coastal erosion and work in agriculture.

We advance according to our ability, because there is a lack of funds to carry out these activities, this is because to the purchase the seeds for natural timber species and the other activities requires substantial funds.

Plant nursery for peatland rainforest trees in Sungai Tohor

I aspire to campaign for this activity in every village, especially in villages in the Tebingtinggi Timur District, so that in the future all of the community will realize how important it is to protect peatland forests.

Planting peatland rainforest trees by the roadside in Sungai Tohor

What’s more our area has deep peatland soil as much as five metres deep, so if there is a fire it is very difficult to extinguish.

Through relating this story GEMAST hopes to encourage support from people who love the environment, because we are also unable to move to protect the environment without involvement. and the help of others, and related parties.

Supporting this project

Izul Azri Fatra can be contacted via WhatsApp. He needs our support in this ambitious project. Please feel free to contact him.

If you don’t speak Indonesian or Malay use Google Translate to post your messages to him


Sungai Tohor is not well marked on maps. In time more images of the locality will be added to this map.

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