By Zamzami Arlinus

Naga Sakti Lake, which is located in Pusako Subdistrict, Siak District, Riau, has now become a mainstay for villagers and the closest vacation spot for Siak residents. In the past, the peat-water lake was just unkempt bushes and even scary like the legend of the lake.

Now the number of tourist visits is very high every long holiday, especially during Eid and New Year holidays. The villagers who manage this area never imagined this. During the 2017 Eid al-Fitr, 16,600 people visited the lake during the 10-day holidays. In 2018 Eid al-Fitr, the number of tourists declined compared to the previous year but it was still quite high, reaching more than 10 thousand visitors.

"Maybe we got fewer visitors because of the slow economy. Tourism depends on people’s curiosity. New attractions will be crowded but the number of visitors will decrease after more and more people know about it,” said Amril in early November 2018.

Currently, 32 people manage the site. Considering the need for large operational funds and the number of visitors, the operation of Dosan Village tourism mainstay is only focused on major holidays such as Eid and New Year.

"The lake is very quiet on normal days. But during holidays, it will be cleaned again," continued Amril.

When asked about the story of how Naga Sakti Lake became a tourist attraction, Amril turned serious. He said that developing the potential of this lake is part of the sustainable village development plan. By protecting the lake and the surrounding forest, he hoped that future generations can still see the forest covered with native trees.

"One of the residents’ hopes is that by protecting the forest around this lake, future generations can still recognize Dosan's native trees such as meranti," said Amril.

The commitment to protect the ​​approximately 300-hectare area is part of the implementation of the Dosan Village Regulation. The village regulation was issued in 2011 and contains the commitment of Dosan Village residents to not expand their oil palm plantations into the forest areas. The formal commitment to protect the remaining forest has been maintained until now.

Dahlan, an oil palm farmer in Dosan Village who is also one of the main supporters of the village regulation, said that since the village regulation was issued in 2011, there have been no more forest and land fires even though there are many peatlands in their village. This is because oil palm farmers no longer clear the forests and convert them into new oil palm plantations.

The village regulation also states the commitment of farmers to carry out oil palm farming in a sustainable way. When the Siak Government developed about 723 hectares of oil palm plantations on peatlands in 204, canals were built to drain the peat so that it could be planted with oil palms. However, the impact was just the opposite. It made the peat became flammable.

“In the past, the dry land in the oil palm plantations was burned because the canals directly channeled into the river. But since the 2011 commitment, we have closed the canals so that the peatlands remain wet and not easily burned,” said Dahlan.

Moreover, the Firefighting Community (MPA) of Dosan Village also continues to disseminate the bad impact of land fires to farmers. He and MPA explained that land and forest fires do not only harm one person but all residents, including children in Dosan.

"We always raise awareness among the people that the fire will not only make one party suffer losses, but the whole community will suffer too. MPA often disseminates this information,” he said.

Like Dahlan and Amril, they have shown how village-level policies can turn the risk of fire disaster into a blessing. Preserving the forest around the lake will also protect their village's only source of water.

“This is not only a matter of protecting our village, but also ensuring that future generations can still see native trees in their village. The preserved lake water will balance the drought during dry seasons," added Amril.

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