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  


High pressure: is U.S. policy deterring illegal wood imports?
(05/19/2015) Some countries, such as the U.S., have imposed legislation at the consumer level, banning the import of illegally sourced wood through their borders. A new study finds that such legislation can be effective, with a 2008 amendment to the Lacey Act significantly reducing the influx of illegal wood into the U.S.


Sarawak leader pledges no more logging, palm oil expansion
(05/05/2015) Sarawak's leader has allegedly pledged to stop granting industrial timber and palm oil concessions in the Malaysian state's increasingly endangered rainforests, asserts the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF).


30 illegal orangutan pets seized in West Kalimantan
(05/05/2015) Thirty orangutans being kept as household pets in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province have been seized and placed in a rehabilitation center, where they are learning to fend for themselves so they can be released into their natural habitats, local conservation authorities report.


Borneo's rainforest may get high-tech 3D scan to boost conservation
(05/04/2015) Conservation efforts in Borneo's embattled rainforest may get a boost with the launch of the newest version of an advanced airplane-based monitoring and assessment system. On Friday, the Carnegie Institution officially unveiled the latest upgrade of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, an airplane equipped with technologies that enable scientists to conduct extremely high resolution scans of forest structure, biomass, and biological diversity. The platform has generated a wealth of information in places where it has been flown before.


Sarawak increases fines for illegal logging
(05/01/2015) After decades of intense logging that has left its rainforests degraded, fragmented, and stripped of valuable timber in many areas, the Malaysian state of Sarawak has passed a new forestry bill that could boost penalties for illegal logging.


Selective logging leaves more dead wood in rainforests
(04/28/2015) Up to 64 percent of above-ground biomass in selectively logged forests may consist of dead wood left over from logging damage, argues a paper published this week in Environmental Research Letters.


Report: Borneo could save billions while still meeting conservation and development goals
(04/27/2015) The three nations that share Borneo could save themselves $43 billion by more closely coordinating their environmental conservation and economic development efforts, according to a report published in the journal Nature Communications.


Officials: Sumatran rhino is extinct in the wild in Sabah
(04/23/2015) There are no Sumatran rhinos left in the wild in the Malaysian state of Sabah, confirmed Masidi Manjun, the Tourism, Culture and Envi­ronment Minister, over the weekend. In 2008, conservationists estimated there were around 50 rhinos in the state. Five years later, it dropped that estimate to just ten. Now, it's admitted the awful truth: the wild rhino is very likely gone.


Growing need for deforestation-free rubber as tire demand destroys native forests
(04/18/2015) Surging demand for natural rubber is decimating some of the world's most endangered forests, putting wildlife and critical ecosystem services at risk, warn scientists writing in the journal Conservation Letters. Reviewing a large body of published research, Eleanor Warren-Thomas of the University of East Anglia and colleagues detail the crop's expansion across across Southeast Asia in recent decades.


Kaiduan dam in Borneo meets fierce opposition
(04/06/2015) Activists are calling on the government of Sabah, Malaysia, to reconsider the proposed Kaiduan dam, saying it has not considered other solutions to Sabah's looming water crisis and has failed to consult with the indigenous people who will be displaced if the project proceeds.





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