Greater access by local communities to Indonesian forests marks progress in a push by the government for land reforms, officials said on Friday (20/10), despite criticism that the efforts still lead nowhere. (Photo courtesy of WWF Indonesia)

Borneo Could Lose 75 Percent of Its Forest by 2020: WWF


JUNE 05, 2017

Jakarta. On World Environment Day (05/06), World Wildlife Fund Indonesia and Malaysia released an executive summary of an upcoming publication titled "The Environmental Status of Borneo 2016," predicting that Borneo could lose 75 percent of its forest by 2020 due to the alarming level of deforestation on the island.

Borneo is home to a diverse range of plants and animal species, with rich resources that sustain the livelihood of 11 million people — including 1 million indigenous people — from Brunei, the Indonesian province of Kalimantan, and Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Only 71 percent of the 74 million hectares of Boreno's forest was left in 2005, and only 55 percent was left in 2015.

Projections indicate that if the deforestation continues at this rate, a further 6 million hectares of forest will be destroyed by 2020, leaving less than a third left by 2020.

Lowland forest areas — which are a critical habitat for the conservation of many unique species — are by far the most in danger in Borneo due to logging, palm oil plantation and production, and other agricultural activities. As a result, lowland forests in Borneo are expected to lose 10-13 million hectares of forest area between 2015-2020.

This also means that certain species, including the critically endangered orangutans, are more at risk of losing their habitat.

"This World Environment Day is a good opportunity to draw attention to the state of the environment that we are passing on to the generations to come," WWF Malaysia executive director and chief executive, Dionysius Sharma said in an official statement.

"We need to act now and act fast to save Borneo's forests. Together, we can help make one of the world's last remaining expanses of forest in Borneo a better place to live in, both for us humans as well as the biodiversity that thrives in this unique tropical rainforest island," he said.

The data, which will be explained further in the full report, which is scheduled for publication by the end of this month, is expected to raise awareness to encourage more people to save Borneo's forests.

"It is important to have a clear and comprehensive overview of the current and previous environmental status of Borneo, including the Heart of Borneo, to see where major changes of the ecological conditions are occurring, "WWF Indonesia acting chief executive Benja V. Mambai said.

"As this report presents as such, we hope that the result of this regular environmental analysis would guide the authorities and our stakeholders to take effective steps to address the declining state of the environment," Benja added.

Heart of Borneo

However, there is positive news for the area known as the Heart of Borneo, which has fared far better than Borneo's lowlands and coastal areas.

The Heart of Borneo is a conservation agreement initiated by the WWF for Nature to protect 22 million hectares of forested region on Borneo and is one of the parts of the island where the forests remain intact.

Considerable work has been carried out under the Heart of Borneo Initiative by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, who signed a declaration in February 2007 to conserve the area's natural heritage.

"The Heart of Borneo Initiative has been ongoing for 10 years now and has gained increased support from all of our major stakeholders," WWF Indonesia acting chief executive Benja V. Mambai said.