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  


Saving Asia's other endangered cats (photos)
(10/21/2014) It's no secret that when it comes to the wild cats of Asia—and, really, cats in general—tigers get all the press. In fact, tigers—down to an estimated 3,200 individuals—arguably dominate conservation across Asia. But as magnificent, grand, and endangered as the tigers are, there are a number of other felines in the region that are much less studied—and may be just as imperiled.


Indonesian law bars palm oil companies from protecting forests
(10/21/2014) A law passed by the Indonesian government last month makes it even more difficult for palm oil companies to conserve tracts of wildlife-rich and carbon-dense forests within their concessions, potentially undermining these producers' commitments to phase deforestation out of their supply chains, warns a new report published by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental group.


Indonesia developing mega coal mine five times larger than Singapore
(10/20/2014) Global miner BHP Billiton and Indonesian partner PT Adaro are developing what could become the single largest mine in Indonesia in terms of land area, with BHP owning 75 percent. The IndoMet mine complex in Central and East Kalimantan provinces on Borneo comprises seven coal concessions, which cover 350,000 hectares, or about five times the size of Singapore.


Walking the walk: zoo kicks off campaign for orangutans and sustainable palm oil
(10/20/2014) If you see people wearing orange this October, it might not be for Halloween, but for orangutans. Chester Zoo’s conservation campaign, Go Orange for Orangutans, kicks off this month for its second year. The campaign aims to raise money, and awareness, for orangutans in Borneo, which have become hugely impacted by deforestation often linked to palm oil plantations.


Indonesia’s tough choice: capping coal as Asian demand grows
(10/17/2014) Indonesia cannot build power stations fast enough. And neither can most of its Asian neighbors. Rapid economic and population growth are driving equally rapid demands for electricity as the region builds out power grids to connect up millions of people to fuel prosperity.


Indonesia tries to clamp down on coal sector’s worst excesses
(10/16/2014) Out of the jungles of East Borneo in Indonesia comes the fire that fuels Asia’s burgeoning economies: coal. Miners dig deep open pits, clearing forests and farmlands to extract coal from thick black seams, which is then crushed and loaded onto trucks and barges for shipment to China, India, Japan and other destinations in Asia.


Helping orangutans survive: new project aims to connect habitat fragments in Kalimantan (PART II)
(10/08/2014) Two decades ago, a project to convert one million hectares of forest to rice paddies was undertaken by the Indonesian government in southern Kalimantan. The project was a massive failure and was eventually abandoned, but not before it destroyed critical orangutan habitat. Now a new project is trying to knit together what's left and turn the area's isolated orangutan populations into one of Borneo's largest.


Marooned in shrinking forests, Bornean orangutans hang on as disaster looms (PART I)
(10/07/2014) The great apes are among some of the most endangered species on Earth, the targets of poachers and the victims of deforestation. However, from time-to-time there comes news of hope. A study published recently describes the dire situation faced by Bornean orangutans, as well as an ambitious project to help save them.


Central Kalimantan to set up palm oil monitoring system to in bid cut deforestation 80%
(10/05/2014) The Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan is moving forward on an oil palm plantation monitoring system it hopes will help meet a commitment to reduce deforestation 80 percent by 2020. The online monitoring system will include "information on the performance of plantation concessions such as productivity, the number of smallholder farmers, deforestation and other land cover change, and fire occurrence," according to Earth Innovation Institute which designed and is helping the provincial government implement the system.


Malaysian palm oil company destroys Borneo forests, despite buyer's zero deforestation commitment
(09/30/2014) Malaysian palm oil company Genting Plantations is continuing to destroy forests despite a high-profile pledge by one of its customers to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain, alleges a report published by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental group.





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