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  


Lush Cosmetics launches bid to protect pangolins
(07/24/2014) Lush Cosmetics has agreed to support an effort to battle trafficking of the Sunda pangolin.


Surprising habitat: camera traps reveal high mammal diversity in forest patches within oil palm plantations
(07/21/2014) After more than four and a half years of camera trap footage, the results are encouraging: 36 mammal species, of which more than half are legally protected, are prospering in this most surprising of spots: an oil palm plantation in the province of East Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo.


What is peat swamp, and why should I care?
(07/20/2014) Long considered an unproductive hindrance to growth and development, peat swamp forests in Southeast Asia have been systematically cleared, drained and burned away to make room plantations and construction. Now, as alternating cycles of fires and flood create larger development problems, while greenhouse gas emissions skyrocket, it is time to take a closer look at peat, and understand why clearing it is a very bad idea.


30% of Borneo's rainforests destroyed since 1973
(07/16/2014) More than 30 percent of Borneo's rainforests have been destroyed over the past forty years due to fires, industrial logging, and the spread of plantations, finds a new study that provides the most comprehensive analysis of the island's forest cover to date. The research, published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, shows that just over a quarter of Borneo's lowland forests remain intact.


Forest loss rising in Borneo (caption)
(07/16/2014) Forest loss is on the rise in Borneo, according to data from a team of researchers led Matt Hansen of the University of Maryland. The study, published last November in the journal Science, now underpins Global Forest Watch, a worldwide forest mapping platform.


Oil palm plantations degrade local water quality relative to community forests
(06/30/2014) Oil palm plantations are not only encroaching on forests, they are also degrading water quality, finds a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences.


Despite moratorium, Indonesia now has world's highest deforestation rate
(06/29/2014) Despite a high-level pledge to combat deforestation and a nationwide moratorium on new logging and plantation concessions, deforestation has continued to rise in Indonesia, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change. Annual forest loss in the southeast Asian nation is now the highest in the world, exceeding even Brazil.


Despite early headwinds, Indonesia's biggest REDD+ project moves forward in Borneo
(06/26/2014) Just over a year ago, the Indonesian government officially approved the country's first REDD+ forest carbon conservation project: Rimba Raya, which aims to protect more than 64,000 hectares of peat forest in Central Kalimantan. The approval came after years of delays from the Ministry of Forestry and a substantial reduction in the project's concession area. But InfiniteEarth, the firm behind the project, pressed on. Now a year later, Rimba Raya's is not only still in business, but is scaling up its operations.


Wilmar to investigate palm oil company allegedly destroying orangutan forest
(06/23/2014) A Wilmar supplier is allegedly destroying orangutan habitat in Indonesian Borneo, potentially putting it in breach of the plantation giant's zero deforestation policy, reports Greenomics. According to analysis of satellite data by Greenomics, PT Sumatera Jaya Agro Lestari (SJAL) has cleared an area of forest that is classified as orangutan habitat.


Broken promises no more? Signs Sabah may finally uphold commitment on wildlife corridors
(06/23/2014) Five years ago an unlikely meeting was held in the Malaysian state of Sabah to discuss how to save wildlife amid worsening forest fragmentation. Although the meeting brought together longtime adversaries—conservationists and the palm oil industry—it appeared at the time to build new relationships and even point toward a way forward for Sabah's embattled forests.





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