Borneo
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LOGGING IN BORNEO

By Rhett A. Butler

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LOGGING IN BORNEO

More wood was extracted from Borneo between 1985 and 2000 that Africa and the Amazon combined - Lisa Curran

The above statement is a testament to the degree of logging in Borneo over the past 20 years or so. The island has seen some of the most intensive logging ever recorded in a tropical forest with extraction sometimes exceeding 240 cubic meters per hectare (the Amazon averages 23 cubic meters per hectare). This intensity of logging was eventually the industry's undoing: the timber market crashed in both Malaysia and Indonesia within the past 15 years. Still forestry is still important on the island today, especially in Kalimantan and Sarawak where large number of people still work for logging companies, generating hundreds of millions of dollars for the local economy. Here's a brief look at logging in Borneo. For more information I suggest looking at the references at the bottom of this page.

History

Logging took off first in Malaysian Borneo, then in Indonesian Kalimantan. Both countries saw a similar boom and bust cycle driven by government subsidies of roads and processing facilities and easy credit. Illegal logging was widespread in both countries.

Malaysia
In the early 1990s at least one-third of log exports from Malaysia were illegal, including 40 percent of timber sent to Japan. Illegal logging is still an issue in Malaysia, though far less than in Indonesia. Most of Malaysia's involvement in the illegal timber trade today is through wood smuggling and illicit operations in other countries, especially Indonesia. Malaysian firms are complicit in illicit harvesting in Kalimantan -- timber is sometimes smuggled across the border and then shipped as "Malaysian" wood.

Region

1992

1993

1994

1995

4-year total

Sabah

2,064,000

293,000

0

6,000

2,363,000

Sarawak

6,363,000

4,922,000

4,463,000

3,902,000

19,650,000


The decrease in timber taken from Sarawak and Sabah is directly the result of declining forest cover and increasing environmental regulation.





Indonesia
Illegal logging is a much bigger problem in Indonesia where an estimated 70-75 percent of timber is harvested illegally, costing the government hundreds of millions to billions in lost tax income. East Kalimantan alone is thought to lose out on $100 million per year in revenue with well over half of wood production being illegal.

According to WWF, illegal logging in Indonesia is driven by several factors:
  • Excess saw mill capacity in Indonesia and Malaysia. Both Malaysia and Indonesia still have facilities to process large amounts of timber even though wood production has declined since the halcyon days of the 1990s. WWF reports that the two countries have the capacity for about 58.2 million cubic meters of wood per year, yet legal production forests can only supply about 25.4 million cubic meters. The shortfall is made up by illegally harvested timber.
  • Lack of local concern about illegal logging. WWF notes that most people in Borneo aren't particularly worried about illegal logging. In fact, the scarcity of jobs means that the average person would welcome a job in the forestry sector, whether the operation is legal or not.
  • Local political interests and corruption. Logging, legal or illegal, creates jobs and stimulates the local economy in the short term, something almost no politician is going to reject. Further, enterprising officials can make a healthy living lining their pockets with the proceeds of illegal timber. The culture of corruption was cemented during Suharto's reign and continues today.
  • Economics. CIFOR (2004) notes that legal wood costs $85 per cubic meter to deliver to the saw mill for large firms, whereas the cost of illegal timber is $32. For small concession holders, the costs are $46 and $5, respectively. It is simply much cheaper to use illegal timber. As WWF put it, "The financial benefits derived from illegal logging are more lucrative than from legal logging."
For these reasons attempts to clamp down on illegal logging through log export bans and other measures have not been met with success. In 2006 the United States offered Indonesia $1 million dollars, an pittance considering the four provincial governments of Kalimantan collectively lose more than $1 million in tax revenue per day to illegal logging, to crack down on illicit harvesting.


The state of forests in Malaysian Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak) in 2009


FEATURED ARTICLES LOGGING IN BORNEO

Indonesia should convert logging concessions to protected areas to stop deforestation for plantations, argues study

(09/05/2013) Reclassifying logging concessions as permanent forest estates and thereby barring them from conversion to industrial plantations would be an effective strategy for helping conserve Indonesia's fast-dwindling forests, argues a new study published in PLoS ONE. The study analyzed forest loss in areas zoned for different uses in Indonesian Borneo. It found that deforestation rates in timber concessions and protected areas were 'not significantly different' provided logging concessions were not reclassified as industrial plantation concessions.


80% of rainforests in Malaysian Borneo logged

(07/17/2013) 80 percent of the rainforests in Malaysian Borneo have been heavily impacted by logging, finds a comprehensive study that offers the first assessment of the spread of industrial logging and logging roads across areas that were considered some of Earth's wildest lands less than 30 years ago. The research, conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Tasmania, University of Papua New Guinea, and the Carnegie Institution for Science, is based on analysis of satellite data using Carnegie Landsat Analysis System-lite (CLASlite), a freely available platform for measuring deforestation and forest degradation. It estimated the state of the region's forests as of 2009.


Industrial logging leaves a poor legacy in Borneo's rainforests

(07/17/2012) For most people "Borneo" conjures up an image of a wild and distant land of rainforests, exotic beasts, and nomadic tribes. But that place increasingly exists only in one's imagination, for the forests of world's third largest island have been rapidly and relentlessly logged, burned, and bulldozed in recent decades, leaving only a sliver of its once magnificent forests intact. Flying over Sabah, a Malaysian state that covers about 10 percent of Borneo, the damage is clear. Oil palm plantations have metastasized across the landscape. Where forest remains, it is usually degraded. Rivers flow brown with mud.




LOGGING PHOTOS from BORNEO  



For more see Logging






NEWS ON BORNEO  


Hunting is a greater threat than logging for most wildlife in Borneo
(12/16/2014) Persistence is the key factor in the two most common human stressors on tropical wildlife. In Malaysian Borneo, hunting continually diminishes wildlife populations, whereas the negative impacts from selective logging are more transient, according to a recent study in Conservation Biology.


Palm oil facilitates large-scale illegal logging in Indonesia
(12/16/2014) Development of oil palm plantations is providing cover for large-scale illegal logging in Indonesian Borneo, driving destruction of some of the island's most biodiverse forests and undermining efforts to reform the country's forestry sector, alleges a new report published by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).


Huge swath of forest in Indonesian Borneo slated for clearing by 'sustainable' company
(12/10/2014) A major wood fiber concession has moved ahead on developing a sizable chunk of forest in one of Indonesia’s most vulnerable provinces before a formal conservation assessment of the land could be completed, Greenomics Indonesia reports.


Tradeoff: Sabah banks on palm oil to boost forest protection
(12/05/2014) Last month Sabah set aside an additional 203,000 hectares of protected forest reserves, boosting the Malaysian state's extent of protected areas to 21 percent of its land mass. But instead of accolades, Sabah forestry leaders were criticized for how they went about securing those reserves: allowing thousands of hectares of deforested land within an officially designated forestry area to be converted for oil palm plantations


Embattled palm oil giant announces sustainability policy, but fails to win over critics
(12/02/2014) Malaysian palm oil giant Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) has joined a growing list of companies committing to zero deforestation for commodity production.


Sarawak chief calls state's logging industry 'corrupt'
(11/24/2014) In a surprising statement, Sarawak's new chief minister called the state's logging sector 'corrupt'.


Indonesian government slow to reclaim lands damaged by coal mining
(11/20/2014) Reclamation of over 830,000 hectares of abandoned mines has yet to begin in East Kalimantan, Indonesia--despite a provincial law passed over a year ago mandating the formation of commission to oversee the process.


Human infections by 'monkey malaria' increasing as forests disappear
(11/10/2014) 68% of malaria hospitalizations in Malaysia last year were caused by a once-rare strain of the disease traditionally limited to macaque monkeys. However, as deforestation has put humans and wild animals in closer proximity, Plasmodium knowlesi infections and deaths have increased rapidly. The strain is now responsible for three times the severe malaria infections in Malaysian Borneo than P. falciparum—the world's deadliest form of the parasite.


Another mining company found operating in flagrant violation of Indonesian law
(11/06/2014) A Harita group mining company in West Kalimantan, Indonesia has been operating well outside of its permit boundary, reports local NGO, Forest Monitoring Volunteers of Borneo (RPHK). Their investigation found that PT. Karya Utama Tambang Jaya, is operating illegally on 78 hectares of land. The company holds permits to mine bauxite (aluminum ore) on 8,878 hectares.


Book detailing corruption allegations against Malaysian ruler moves forward
(11/05/2014) A book alleging massive corruption by Sarawak's long-time ruler, Abdul Taib bin Mahmud, is being released despite apparent legal threats against the book's publisher and author.





REFERENCES  


  • Lisa Curran, personal communication
  • Tacconi L., Obidzinski K., Agung F.: Learning Lessons to Promote Forest Certification and Control Illegal Logging in Indonesia; CIFOR, 2004
  • WWF Germany, Borneo: Treasure Island at Risk, June 2005 [pdf, 773 KB]
  • mongabay.com


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    Copyright Rhett Butler 2013