territory apportioned unevenly between the countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and
Brunei. It is the largest in Asia and third
largest island in the world. The island is the oldest and most bio-diverse
rainforest on Earth with endless white sandy beaches and an abundance of
natural wonders. The two states of Sarawak and Sabah make up the Malaysian part
of the island of Borneo, and are separated from West Malaysia by the South
China Sea. Sarawak stretches some 800km along the northwest coasts and directly
adjoins the State of Sabah to the north-east, where the sultanate of Brunei
forms a double enclave. Inland, the State borders with Kalimantan, Indonesia.
the British Ecological Society (BES) annual meeting held at Ghent during 10th
to 14th December 2017, there was a presentation on “From forest to oil palms:
the effect of forest modification on soil carbon dynamics in Sabah, Borneo” by Deirdre
Kerdraon. The presentation is the base on which this paper is written. The key purpose
of this paper is to discuss the political and social influences on forest
management issues in Borneo island. Though Borneo island is bordered by three
countries, the analysis is done mainly based on the data available for
Indonesia and Malaysia.
presentation by Deirdre Kerdraon at BES annual conference during December 2017
focussed how natural forests are being destroyed for plantation of oil palms in
Borneo. The presentation discussed how the people prefer to take up the oil
palm activities by destroying the natural forests. With this background, this
paper tries to review various literatures to understand the oil palm
plantations, its impact on natural forests and also on the local livelihoods.
The paper also tries to build some ideas for future of oil palm plantation in
both the countries.
2. Review of literature
compilation of articles and research papers have been referred for the purpose of
review the current situation in the oil palm plantation and its impact on
natural forest of Borneo. The review was carried out thematically, to arrive at
a clear synthesis of the current state of sustainability.
palms require less land to produce the same amount of oil as other vegetable
crops, despite of some authors claim that the environmental damage from oil
palm development has been exaggerated (Lam et al. 2009; Tan et al. 2009; Boyfield
and Ali 2011; Roberts 2011). Evidence reveals
that industrial oil palm expansion may lead to extensive deforestation. Wicke
and colleagues (2011) relying on data gathered from various kinds of publicly
available national and international studies examined changes in land use in
Indonesia and Malaysia from 1975 through 2005.
and Wilcove (2008) also assessed the extent to which oil palm plantations are
destroying forests based on nationally reported statistics of cropland and
forest area. (including primary, secondary, and plantation forests, but
excluding rubber plantations) in Malaysia and Indonesia. They found that
between 1990 and 2005, oil palm expansion between 55 and 59 % of in Malaysia
resulted in secondary forest (selectively logged) and plantation forest
clearance. At least 56 % of oil palm expansion in Indonesia during this same
time period resulted in forest loss.
and colleagues (2012) based on socioeconomic surveys and remotely sensed time
series data of West Kalimantan in the Indonesian part of Borneo, observed that
from 1989 to 2008, nearly half of all oil palm plantations were developed on
intact and logged forests, leading to a decline in forest cover from 59 to 22 %
outside of protected areas. The great majority of the forest loss during this
19 year period was attributed to fires that were exacerbated by deforestation
(Curran et al. 2004).
and colleagues (2014) established that Borneo lost over 30 % of its forests,
with 33% converted to oil palm and rubber plantations between 1973 and 2010. By
2010, almost 9% of Borneo covered with industrial oil palm plantations. Along
with rubber plantations, the authors also found that primary driver of forest
loss in Borneo are resulted by the oil palm expansion.
and colleagues (2014) examined forest loss in Sumatra from 2000 through 2010
from smallholdings, private enterprises, and state-owned oil palm plantations.
They concluded that large- scale oil palm developments were responsible for
almost 20% of Sumatra’s total forest losses over the 10-year study period eight
times the impact of smallholders. Over 88% of the deforestation caused due to private
and colleagues (2011) examined the forest loss in the Peruvian Amazon from 2000
to 2010 due to large-scale, industrial and small-scale, low-yield oil palm
plantations. With analysis of remotely sensed and field data, they found that
72 % of large-scale oil palm expansion occurred at the expense of forests,
which represents 1.3% of total deforestation in Peru during that time period.
In contrast to small- scale plantations, the large-scale, industrial
developments tended to expand mostly into old-growth forests.
above literatures reveals that industrial oil palm plantations have expanded at
the expense of tropical forests comprising primary, secondary, peat land, and
Figure 1: Land use and land
cover change in Borneo (1973-2015)
(A) Total deforestation
old-growth and selectively logged forest in December 2015; (B) The increase of
industrial oil-palm plantations (7.8?Mha); (C) The growth of industrial
pulpwood plantations (1.3?Mha).
is a high concern about biodiversity loss is directly related to forest loss. It
is also evident from studies that when natural forests replaced with plantation
forests and especially oil palm plantations more number of birds, animals and
indigenous variety of species are affected heavily.
species (and subspecies), such as orangutan, Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus
sumatrensis) and Sumatran tiger, are especially threatened by oil palm
expansion and captured or killed when vegetation is cleared to make way for new
plantations (Sheil, Douglas 2009). Elephants are often destroy plantations and
feed on the oil-rich palm nuts so they
are considered to pose a risk to the oil palm plantations. Orangutans have also
been known to become violent around oil palm plantations when their food source
is threatened and they too are often destroyed (Sheil, Douglas 2009).
3. Social and political
threatened by the negative impact of oil palms on forests the countries have
taken some measures to safeguard the livelihoods of the local communities and
also the precious natural resources. The Malaysian oil palm industry is now adopting
self-regulating environmental management tools, such as ISO?14000 EMS and life
cycle assessment (LCA), to reduce environmental impacts (Sheil, Douglas 2009).
Indonesia the Reduced Emissions for Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)
scheme may enable Indonesia to receive funding and support for policies and
measures that encourage companies to plant oil palm on degraded lands rather
than on forested lands. Meanwhile, several new international and national
initiatives are underway to improve practices in establishing oil palm
plantations and using forests (ibid).
the past two decades in Indonesia and Malaysia, the area under palm oil
cultivation has roughly tripled, helping to accelerate the destruction of the
region’s remaining rain forests along with bauxite mining and logging
operations. The loss of these ecosystems has undermined local communities,
which depend on the rain forest for forest management, fisheries and
over worldwide energy and global warming use have escalated the controversy
over oil palm plantation. However, the interest in biodiesel from palm oil is
currently a leader among biofuel options, and major investments are already
planned to convert millions of hectares of tropical forests and other land
types to oil palm plantations. Biofuels may have major positive or negative
effects on natural forests, forest dwellers and owners. On the one hand, it may
lead leading to a higher standard of living with fewer people depending on the
remaining forests for subsistence from oil palm plantations. The value could increase that can be derived
from previously forested land and help to promote economic prosperity and
alleviate poverty. On the other side, demand for biofuels could increase
competition for land, threaten food production and exacerbate inequality
between rich and poor.
oil plantations load up the rivers with sediment caused gradually destroying
the waterways with nutrient overload and pesticides by soil erosion. This
undermines the local people’s access to protein because of degrades fish
is no doubt that oil palm industries are highly backed by national and
international big companies. Because of the profitable business sometimes the
national legislations could not also safeguard the natural forests at the cost
of oil palm plantation.
is agreed that enhanced regulation and stricter law enforcement are needed to
protect biodiversity and limit deforestation and pollution. However, while laws
may be put into place, but the indirect effects of those laws, whether
intentional or not, may still have a negative impact on tropical forests. For
example, the Malaysian government announced a ban on converting protected and
reserve forests to palm plantations, but immediately thereafter revealed the
acquisition of more than 150,000 hectares of forest in Indonesia, Papua New
Guinea (Petrenko Chelsea, 2016).
palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia are expanding rapidly due to biofuel
and global oil demand. The conversion process of forested land to oil palm
plantations and the maintenance of a plantation can significantly alter
freshwater ecosystems, which is a matter of concern. This is a consequence of
the initial loss of a forested catchment, changes to the bed and banks of
streams, particularly the riparian vegetation, sedimentation and changes to
detrital inputs. In addition, the nearest waterways and can potentially affect
freshwater macro invertebrates due to various chemicals used on the
plantations. This study compared four steams flowing through undisturbed
rainforest and four streams flowing through oil palm plantations in Sarawak,
Malaysia to measure the impact of oil palm plantations on stream macro
invertebrates. Using the standard three-minute kick sample method with accompanying
chemical measurements freshwater macroinvertebrates were sampled. The
invertebrate communities provided a different interpretation of stream quality although
there were no distinct differences between the control and oil palm streams in
the chemical data. Invertebrates were more species rich, abundant and diverse
in rainforest streams than in oil palm ones. Most importantly, two whole orders
of insecta, Coleoptera (beetles) and Hemiptera (true bugs), were absent from
the oil palm streams. This might be the result of the disappearance of natural
bank habitats, the sensitivity to the pesticides targeted at the Rhinocerous
beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros), or a combination of both.
expense of tropical forest with the expansion of plantations is the key concern
for the environmentalists. Specifically, the oil-palm plantation expanding
rapidly has generated alarm about the future of forests and species. Such
concerns are particularly focused on Southeast Asia where Malaysia and Indonesia
already contributed 53% and 34% (33.5 Mt and 21.2 Mt) respectively to global palm-oil
production in 2013 (FAO, 2015). According to official estimates, Earth’s third
largest island, Borneo with a 73.7 million hectares (Mha) landmass — supported
at least 5.4?Mha of planted oil-palm in 2015 (Ministry of Agriculture of
Republic of Indonesia. Agricultural statistics (2014)
5. Conclusions and
paper assesses the social and environmental impacts that arises a from oil palm
cultivation in Malaysia and Indonesia in order to draw broader lessons. After
reviewing the literatures, it is found that the impact of oil palms on forests
is both positive and negative. There is no doubt that the plantation of oil
palms creates largely positive impacts on local livelihoods. Despite this perceived
positive impact, adverse impacts on the environment, such as deforestation and contribution
to green house gases and pollution were shown?to be a
concern among the environmentalists who continue to rely on traditional land-use
oil plantations have serious consequences for biodiversity, climate change and
natural forests. There are enough evidences that point towards devastating the
natural forests, loss of carbon in the forest landscape, threats to biodiversity
including the endemic species. There are also evidences that the oil palm
plantation creates pollution of water bodies nearby. Loss of land rights of
indigenous communities, health impact because of the chemicals used are some
other factors cited in the literatures.
is a need to address the environmental and social impacts of palm oil
plantation. It is not advisable to ban it because of higher contribution of the
palm oil to national and international economy. But what can be done at the
moment is to minimise the impact that it has created at the local level. The
creation of environmental enforcement standards is very crucial in maintaining
a balance of both plantation and forest management as well as the livelihoods
of the local communities.