Sarawak deforestation: Story of Belaga


More on deforestation in Sarawak.

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Taken from a comment on the Aliran website:

While Sean’s warning about Google Earth’s images is useful, what it means in practice is that the extent of deforestation it shows is an under-estimate of the actual situation on the ground. For Sarawak, it is mostly about five years out of date.

The Brunei situation as reflected by Google Earth largely corresponds to what’s on the ground; but that for Kalimantan is a far cry from reality. Kalimantan is just about as badly logged out as Sarawak and Sabah.

Re the Brimas map, there is one serious inaccuracy — it does not incorporate the Pulung Tau National Park. Moreover, the upper Murum, shaded as pristine forest, is actually under logging concession and has been actively logged, as is also the upper Linau, upper Bahau and the ulu Balui, i.e., there is no part of Belaga that is not under logging and/or plantation concession. The only green part, what was supposed to have been the Batu Laga Wildlife Reserve, is only so because of the terrain, as the top of Batu Laga itself is criss-crossed by major logging tracks.

The story of Sarawak these thirty years is encapsulated in the story of Belaga: 30 years ago, more than 90% of Belaga was under primary forest or very old growth. Logging started in earnest in the early 1980s. Today, more than 90% of Belaga has been logged out and at least 250,000 hectares have been converted into oil palm and industrial tree plantations. 30 years ago, Belaga was largely under customary tenure or customary use. Landholdings probably averaged 50 hectares per family — an indication: the 70,000ha to be flooded by Bakun was mostly land under long fallow under customary tenure, i.e., 35ha per family living there. Today, their landholdings have shrunk, while that going to companies and the well-linked has ballooned. Those directly affected by Bakun have seen their landholdings shrink from the conservatively estimated 50ha a family to 1.2ha a family. Those living below Bakun and elsewhere in Belaga have seen their lands chipped away for oil palm and tree plantations. As they say, at least under logging, they still had access to the land and forest, degraded as it might be.

Finally, I think it is not true to say that the authorities include plantations as forests. As far as can be determined, they do not include rubber and oil palm plantations. But industrial tree plantations — so-called “licensed planted forests” — are counted as forests and are part of the so-called “permanent forest estate” or, in legal classification, “protected forests”.

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Gerakan K

Well this is a bad news for Mr Taib team. More votes could be won by pakatan. Oh, pakatan is going to form new state government very soon.


Oops – ‘underestimate’ was a crucial omission from that comment of mine. I didn’t mean to infer that the Google Maps / Earth technique was ‘no good’, but exactly what later comments said explicitly: that looking at old images could lead one to underestimate the extent of the deforestation. Sorry about that :sweats: