Malaysia’s deforestation rate increasing rapidly – 86% jump since 1990s
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
December 28, 2005
Malaysia’s deforestation rate is accelerating faster than any other tropical country in the world according to data from the United Nations.
Analysis of figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) shows that Malaysia’s annual deforestation rate jumped almost 86 percent between 2000-2005 and the 1990-2000 period. In total, Malaysia lost an average of 140,200 hectares — 0.65 percent of its forest area — per year since 2000. For comparison, the southeast Asian country lost an average of 78,500 hectares, or 0.35 percent of its forests, annually during the 1990s.
Malaysia’s accelerating deforestation rate is part of a broader trend across tropical countries which saw rates of forest loss increase 8.5% percent since the end of the 1990s. Globally, FAO estimates that 10.40 million hectares of tropical forest were permanently destroyed each year in the period from 2000 to 2005, an increase since the 1990-2000 period, when around 10.16 million hectares of forest were lost. Among primary forests, annual deforestation rose to 6.26 million hectares from 5.41 million hectares in the same period.
Samling’s “sustainable” concession in Sawarak. Provided by the Bruno-Manser-Fonds Association for the peoples of the rainforest.
The Malaysian government failed to provide FAO with figures showing the change in extent of primary forests during the period. Primary forests — forests with no visible signs of past or present human activities — are considered the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet.
Declining forest cover in Malaysia results primarily from urbanization, agricultural fires, and forest conversion for oil palm plantations and other forms of agriculture. Logging, which is generally excluded in deforestation figures from FAO, is responsible for widespread forest degradation in the country and green groups have blamed local timber companies for failing to practice sustainable forest management. Earlier in this week — despite photographic evidence suggesting otherwise — the Samling Group denied such claims from NGOs accusing the timber giant of recklessly harvesting timber in one of its Sarawak concessions on the island of Borneo.
Forest cover has fallen dramatically in Malaysia since the 1970s. While FAO says that forests still cover more than 60% of the country, only 11.6% of these forests are considered pristine.