Plan­ta­tions be­hind more than half of Bor­neo de­for­esta­tion

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Palm oil and pulp wood com­pa­nies are re­spon­si­ble for more than half of the rapid de­for­esta­tion in the Malaysian part of Bor­neo is­land, an environmental sci­en­tist said in an in­ter­view. David Gaveau, of the In­done­si­abased Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional Forestry Re­search (CIFOR), used satel­lite images and data on con­ces­sions from more than four decades to de­ter­mine how fast de­for­ested land was con­verted into in­dus­trial plan­ta­tions on Bor­neo. “The faster the con­ver­sion, the more likely that the lands were cleared by plan­ta­tion com­pa­nies,” Gaveau told Reuters in an in­ter­view on Mon­day.

Just half of Bor­neo - which is shared by Brunei, Malaysia and In­done­sia - is now cov­ered by forests com­pared with 76 per­cent in 1973, Gaveau said. The find­ings by Gaveau and his group are likely to com­pound crit­i­cism of the palm oil in­dus­try in par­tic­u­lar, which has faced con­dem­na­tion for its land-clear­ing by burn­ing and re­sult­ing smoke across South­east Asia ev­ery year. Malaysia and neigh­bor­ing In­done­sia are the world’s top two pro­duc­ers of palm oil, a widely used edi­ble oil found in ev­ery­thing from cookies to soaps. Both coun­tries are also ma­jor pro­duc­ers of tim­ber and tim­ber prod­ucts.

Plan­ta­tions op­er­at­ing on both the Malaysian and In­done­sian parts of Bor­neo have come un­der scru­tiny over the clear­ing of for­est, which has also re­sulted in a dra­matic loss of habi­tat for wildlife in­clud­ing orang­utans. “By and large, we can say that the oil palm in­dus­try has al­ways been the ma­jor driver of de­for­esta­tion,” Gaveau said. But the link be­tween plan­ta­tions and de­for­esta­tion was much more stark in Malaysian Bor­neo, Gaveau said.

Malaysia lost 4.2 mil­lion hectares, or 28 per­cent, of its orig­i­nal for­est cover on Bor­neo be­tween 1973 and 2015, and up to 60 per­cent of the cleared land was rapidly con­verted to plan­ta­tions, Gaveau said. At the end of 2015, Malaysia had about 10.8 mil­lion hectares still cov­ered by for­est on Bor­neo, he said. But in Kal­i­man­tan, on the In­done­sian side of Bor­neo, only about 16 per­cent of cleared land was rapidly turned into plan­ta­tions, he said. —Reuters

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