Malaysia Review 4 (Jan-Jul '21): Sarawak

Welcome to the fourth installment of the Malaysia review. This time, we’re putting Sarawak under the lens. Because of the sheer size of East Malaysian states, the usual state-level overviews will be replaced by divisions or combined divisions (if they are small) before we explore affected forest reserves (FRs) and protected areas (PAs).


Refreshers

1. we are using the 2021 GLAD dataset* (up to 13 Jul) along with

2. Planet satellite images (register free account).

3. Remember to take note of the scale bar to make sense of the size of clear-cut areas when viewing slider images

*note: this means forest loss from 2020 will not be included


We will structure each section with

i) a division-level (or multiple divisions if they are small) overview followed by

ii) a list of affected forest reserves (FRs) and protected areas (PAs) – if any detected. Listing the layers used for Sarawak FRs and PAs here:

· Permanent Forest Estate, PFEs (2020) – these make up the FRs. PFE names were supplied by an image of a hard copy map shared with us.

· Totally Protected Areas (Sept 2018). Used for Proposed TPAs

· Totally Protected Areas (2021). Used for Existing TPAs

· Licenses for Planted Forest (2019) – these are mostly logged over areas, with pockets of intact forests. Like their namesake, they are slated for the establishment of planted forests.

· CIFOR’s dataset – we used this to determine if affected areas were intact or logged over forests. GFW data only leads back to 2000, so this dataset tells us if an area was intact from pre-1973 to 2015)

iii) zoom down to explore particularly ghastly-looking areas with the free Flourish slider tool.

Click on the slider on the middle of the images with the Flourish logos (bottom right) and drag the slider either direction to compare Jun 2020 vs Jun 2021 images.


Let’s begin.


Kuching, Samarahan, Sri Aman, Betong

Beginning from the westernmost tail of Borneo, Kuching is among the most urban areas of Sarawak and we expect little to no alerts there. Samarahan, Sri Aman, and Betong have several noteworthy protected areas and proposed protected areas. These proposed protected areas are generally ecologically valuable areas that have not been gazetted for one reason or another in Sarawak. The overview of the first 4 divisions are shown below (Figure 1).

Figure 1 GLAD alerts (2021) overlaid with Permanent Forest Estates (PFEs), Totally Protected Areas (TPAs), and Licenses for Planted Forests (LPFs) in Kuching, Samarahan, Sri Aman, and Bentong (click image to view in high-resolution).


Impacted PFEs, TPAs, and LPFs include:

1. Saribas-Lupar PF (Prop. 1st Exc.) in Sri Aman (PFE) – the entire area’s land use is currently for agriculture, so perhaps no longer a PFE. Most of the PFE was cleared in 2000-2015, peaking at 2010-2015. The last remaining forests in the western end was cleared in the last 5y. The detected alert in 2021 was probably for agricultural activity.

2. Kuching Wetland National Park (NP), a TPA

3. LPF/0042, Kuching

4. Apeng NP, Samarahan (TPA)

5. Proposed Ulu Klauh NP (Proposed TPA)


As the hotspots in 2-5 were rather small, we decided not to explore them further. As expected, few hotspots were found within the four western divisions.


Mukah, Sibu, Sarikei

Mukah, Sibu, and Sarikei showed a number of large hotspots outside of PFEs, TPAs, and LPFs - these will not be explored. As usual, the overview is shared below (Figure 2).

Figure 2 GLAD alerts (2021) overlaid with PFEs (2020), TPAs (2021), and LPFs (2019) in Mukah, Sibu, and Sarikei (click image to view in high-resolution).


Impacted PFEs, TPAs, and LPFs include:

1-4. LPF/0043 by KTS/Samling/Ta Ann – this LPF (>400k ha) extends over to cover most of Bintulu division, overlapping with the entire Danau Mujan (Bino Penyilam) NP and 2 proposed NPs: Bukit Sarang NP & Sg. Kubud Wildlife Sanctuary.

5. LPF/0032 Immense Fleet Area B by WTK

6. LPF/0026 Part 3 by Rejang Heights (Rimbunan Hijau)

7. LPF/0047 by LN Global

8. LPF/0032 Immense Fleet Area C by WTK

9. LPF/0044 by Rimbunan Hijau

10. Batang Jem Oreng PF

11. Loba Pulau PF



Time to explore some hotspots.


1-2. LPF/0043 by KTS/Samling/Ta Ann

Figure 2.1 Affected areas in LPF/0043 by KTS/Samling/Ta Ann. The affected areas were generally not pristine forest since 1973 based on CIFOR’s dataset.


3. LPF/0043 by KTS/Samling/Ta Ann

Figure 2.2 Affected areas in LPF/0043 by KTS/Samling/Ta Ann. The affected areas were logged over forests based on CIFOR’s dataset.


4. LPF/0043 by KTS/Samling/Ta Ann

Figure 2.3 Affected areas in LPF/0043 by KTS/Samling/Ta Ann. The affected areas were logged over forests based on CIFOR’s dataset.


5. LPF/0032 Immense Fleet Area B by WTK

Figure 2.3 Affected areas in LPF/0032 Immense Fleet Area B by WTK. The affected areas were logged over forests based on CIFOR’s dataset.


6. LPF/0026 Part 3 by Rejang Heights (Rimbunan Hijau)

Figure 2.4 Affected areas in LPF/0026 Part 3 by Rejang Heights (Rimbunan Hijau). The affected areas were logged over forests based on CIFOR’s dataset.


10. Batang Jem Oreng PF

Figure 2.5 Affected areas in Batang Jem Oreng PF. The affected PFE areas were logged over forests based on CIFOR’s dataset.


Most of the areas that were badly affected were within LPFs or PFEs, which suggests that everything is legal. The question on many Sarawakian minds, however, is whether the legal process itself is flawed, neglecting the native customary rights of locals who may have lived there for generations. This issue is well-discussed on mainstream news, so we won’t be adding to it.


Kapit

Kapit is the largest division of Sarawak, with most of it covered in PFEs, LPFs, TPAs, or proposed TPAs. Its landscapes are largely rural. An overview of the division is shown below (Figure 3).

Figure 3 GLAD alerts (2021) overlaid with PFEs (2020), TPAs (2021), and LPFs (2019) in Kapit (click image to view in high-resolution).


We will be listing affected FRs beginning from the north.

1. LPF/0036 Part 1 by Koyan Forest Plantation (Rimbunan Hijau)

2. Belaga PF, PFE

3. LPF/0018 by Shin Yang

4. Danum PF, PFE

5. Danum PF, PFE

6. Bahau PF, PFE – southern #6 patch

1. Balui PF, PFE – northern #6 patch

2. LPF/0024 by Rimbunan Hijau

3. Bahau PF (1st Ext), PFE - eastern #8 patch

8. Baleh PF, PFE – middle & southern #8 patches

9. LPF/0028 by Rimbunan Hijau

10. LPF/0030 Part 1 by Garu Skyline Plantation (controlled by RH Forest Corportation SB, a subsidiary of Rimbunan Hijau)

11. LPF/0018 Extension by Shin Yang

12. Proposed Hose Laga NP

13. LPF/0040 Raplex Division

14. LPF/0022 by Immense Fleet (WTK)

15. Pelagus PF, PFE

16. LPF/0040 Melekun

17. LPF/0010 Area E by Woodley (Ta Ann)

18. LPF/0010 Rejang Division, Areas A & B by Ta Ann

19. LPF/0032 Area D, by Immense Fleet (WTK)

There are a lot of sliders coming your way.


1. LPF/0036 Part 1 by Koyan Forest Plantation (Rimbunan Hijau)

Figure 3.1 Affected areas in LPF/0036 Part 1 by Koyan Forest Plantation (Rimbunan Hijau). Based on CIFOR’s dataset, the affected LPF areas were intact forest.


3. LPF/0018 by Shin Yang

Figure 3.2a Affected areas in LPF/0018 by Shin Yang (west). The areas affected on the left side of the image were intact forests, while those on the right were logged over based on CIFOR data.

Figure 3.2b Affected areas in LPF/0018 by Shin Yang (northeast). The areas affected were intact forests based on CIFOR data.

Figure 3.2c Affected areas in LPF/0018 by Shin Yang (south). The areas affected were intact forests based on CIFOR data.


6. Bahau PF (Southern #6 patch), PFE

Figure 3.3 Affected areas in Bahau PF, the southern #6 patch. Logged over forest.


6. Balui PF (Northern #6 patch), PFE

Figure 3.4 Affected areas in Balui PF, the northern #6 patch. Intact forest.


11. LPF/0018 Extension by Shin Yang

Figure 3.5 Affected areas in LPF/0018 Extension by Shin Yang. Mostly logged over forests with a small sliver of intact forests affected near the center of the image.


18. LPF/0010 Rejang Division, Areas A & B by Ta Ann

Figure 3.6 Affected areas in LPF/0010 Rejang Division, Areas A & B by Ta Ann. Mostly logged over forests.


Bintulu

Bintulu, the division that houses the busiest port of Sarawak. As usual, the overview is shared below (Figure 4).

Figure 4 GLAD alerts (2021) overlaid with PFEs (2020), TPAs (2021), and LPFs (2019) in Bintulu (click image to view in high-resolution).


Impacted PFEs, TPAs, and LPFs include:

1. Similajau FR (Prop 28th Exc)

2. LPF/0002 Zumida – Similajau – Area A by Ta Ann

3. Bukit Tiban NP

4. Sawai PF, PFE (technically in Miri division)

5. LPF/0002 Zumida – Similajau – Area B by Ta Ann

6. LPF/0003 by Daiken Tree Plantation

7. Similajau FR (Prop 24th Exc)

8. LPF/0043 by KTS/Samling/Ta Ann – as mentioned under the Mukah, Sibu, Sarikei section, this LPF (>400k ha) extends over to cover most of Bintulu division, overlapping with the entire Danau Mujan (Bino Penyilam) NP and 2 proposed NPs: Bukit Sarang NP & Sg. Kubud Wildlife Sanctuary.

9. LPF/0012 by Pusaka-KTS (logged over forest)

10. LPF/0013 by Pusaka-KTS (logged over forest)

11. LPF/0014 Samling Segan FP Part 3

12. Similajau FR, PFE

13. LPF/0039 by Zed Tee SB (Shin Yang)

14. LPF/0019 Shin Yang – Part 1


2 & 3. LPF/0002 Zumida – Similajau – Area A by Ta Ann & Bukit Tiban NP

Figure 4.1 Affected areas in LPF/0002 Zumida – Similajau – Area A by Ta Ann and Bukit Tiban National Park. Based on CIFOR’s dataset, both affected areas are logged over forests. How is a TPA like Bukit Tiban NP being logged so nonchalantly?


5. LPF/0002 Zumida – Similajau – Area B by Ta Ann

Figure 4.2 Affected areas in LPF/0002 Zumida – Similajau – Area B by Ta Ann. Based on CIFOR’s dataset, first logged in 2006-2010.


6 & 7. LPF/0003 by Daiken Tree Plantation & Similajau FR (Prop 24th Exc)

Figure 4.3 Affected areas in LPF/0003 by Daiken Tree Plantation & Similajau FR (Prop 24th Exc). Based on CIFOR’s dataset, the affected areas were first logged between 1973-2000.


8A. LPF/0043 KTS/Samling/Ta Ann

Figure 4.4a Affected areas in KTS/Samling/Ta Ann. Logged over forests. Since even the 2020 image was in bad shape, this may constitute some maintenance/replanting work – other than the huge patches outside the concession of course (based on our shapefiles).


8B. LPF/0043 KTS/Samling/Ta Ann

Figure 4.4b Affected areas in KTS/Samling/Ta Ann. Logged over forests.


8C. LPF/0043 KTS/Samling/Ta Ann

Figure 4.4c Affected areas in KTS/Samling/Ta Ann. Logged over forests.


8D. LPF/0043 KTS/Samling/Ta Ann

Figure 4.4d Affected areas in KTS/Samling/Ta Ann. Logged over forests.


8E. LPF/0043 KTS/Samling/Ta Ann

Figure 4.4e Affected areas in KTS/Samling/Ta Ann. Logged over forests.



8F. LPF/0043 KTS/Samling/Ta Ann & Ta Tau PF

Figure 4.4f Affected areas in KTS/Samling/Ta Ann & Ta Tau PF. Logged over forests.


13. LPF/0039 by Zed Tee SB (Shin Yang)

Figure 4.5 Affected areas in LPF/0039 by Zed Tee SB (Shin Yang). Logged over forests.


Miri

Miri is the second largest city in Sarawak after Kuching, and is a city largely driven by the oil and gas industry. The division borders Brunei to the east. Let’s get to the overview for Miri below (Figure 5).


Figure 5 GLAD alerts (2021) overlaid with PFEs (2020), TPAs (2021), and LPFs (2019) in Limbang (click image to view in high-resolution).


Impacted PFEs, TPAs, and LPFs include:

1, 2. Tu Toh-A Poh FR & Ext

3. Suling-Selaan PF

4, 5, 6. LPF/0008 Marudi & Batu Belah Blocks (Samling)

7. LPF/0011 Tutoh Tree Plantation (KTS)

8. LPF/0017 Long Lama FPP (Shin Yang)

9. LPF/0021 Samling Paong FP (Samling)

10. Nakan-Kalulong FR

11. Bok-Tisam PF (name not confirmed)

12. PFE (name not known)

13. Bukit Tiban NP


Slider time.


4, 5. LPF/0008 Marudi & Batu Belah Blocks (Samling)

Figure 5.1a Affected areas in LPF/0008 Marudi & Batu Belah Blocks (Samling) patch #4. Based on CIFOR’s dataset, the affected areas were first logged between 2006-2010.

Figure 5.1b Affected areas in LPF/0008 Marudi & Batu Belah Blocks (Samling) patch #5. Logged over forests.


11. Bok-Tisam PF (name not confirmed)

Figure 5.2 Affected areas in Bok-Tisam PF (name not confirmed). Logged over forest.


13. Bukit Tiban NP

Figure 5.3 Affected areas in Bukit Tiban NP. Logged over forest. Bukit Tiban NP shows that TPA status really does not mean that much in practice. The visibly overlapping region with LPF/0002 also begs the question over which land use/ legal framework takes precedence in the affected areas.


Limbang

Limbang, the U-shaped division that borders both Brunei and Sabah. If not for its position, there may actually be healthy, continuous forests connecting the two parts of Brunei – no offense, Limbang. The overview for Limbang is shared below (Figure 6).

Figure 6 GLAD alerts (2021) overlaid with PFEs (2020), TPAs (2021), and LPFs (2019) in Limbang (click image to view in high-resolution).


Impacted PFEs, TPAs, and LPFs include:

1. LPF/0038 Limba Jaya (Ext 3) by Lee Ling

2, 5, 8, 9. LPF/0038 Limba Jaya (Part 1) by Lee Ling (it’s a ~95k ha concession)

3. LPF/0038 Limba Jaya (Ext 2) by Lee Ling – road-like pattern

4. LPF/0038 Limba Jaya (Ext 1) by Lee Ling

6,7. LPF/0027 by Billion Venture

10, 12, 14. LPF/0005 by Samling Kanaya FP (Samling; permit dated 1998) – concession overlaps with

i) a proposed NP (Paya-Maga NP)

ii) a proposed Nature Reserve (Ulu Sebuang NR)

iii) the existing Kalamuku NP (est. 2016) – I wonder if this was resolved

11, 13. LPF/0038 Limba Jaya (Part 3)


Here come the sliders.

2, 8. LPF/0038 Limba Jaya (Part 1) by Lee Ling

Figure 6.1a Affected areas in the northwestern parts (2) of LPF/0038 Limba Jaya (Part 1) by Lee Ling. Based on CIFOR’s dataset, areas affected were logged over forests.

Figure 6.1b Affected areas in the southern parts (8) of LPF/0038 Limba Jaya (Part 1) by Lee Ling. Based on CIFOR’s dataset, areas affected were logged over forests.


4. LPF/0038 Limba Jaya (Ext 1) by Lee Ling

Figure 6.2 Affected areas in LPF/0038 Limba Jaya (Ext 1) by Lee Ling. Based on CIFOR’s dataset, areas affected were logged over forests.


6. LPF/0027 by Billion Venture

Figure 6.3 Affected areas in LPF/0027 by Billion Venture. Based on CIFOR’s dataset, areas affected were logged over forests.


11. LPF/0038 Limba Jaya (Part 3)

Figure 6.4 Affected areas in LPF/0038 Limba Jaya (Part 3). Based on CIFOR’s dataset, areas affected were logged over forests.


The caveats of the previous parts of the Malaysia Reviews apply, no fingers pointed – this is the best we could do with available datasets. And yet, does the legality of logging operations ensure that sufficient forest landscapes are safeguarded against imminent ecosystem collapse and climate change? The biggest threat against Malaysian forest ecosystems is indeed, legal logging operations.


Most of the forest loss in Sarawak occurred within LPFs with the exception of Bukit Tiban NP (a TPA). Forest reserves (PFEs) only experienced minor patches of forest loss. This contrasts quite strongly with Peninsular Malaysia where forest reserves (Permanent Reserved Forests, PRFs) suffered the brunt of the action in the same period. Peninsular Malaysia does not have an LPF-equivalent classification, and PRF classes and functions are not publicly available. The logging industry is seeing its sunset in Sarawak, with whatever remaining really being the bottom-of-the-barrel or logged over areas that are worth a second glance. The Big Six in Sarawak were generally the ones presiding over most of the worst-hit areas highlighted in the post, but it appears that these slim pickings in Sarawak has prompted them to turning their attention to pristine forests elsewhere. The figure below (Figure 7) highlights tiny middle-income Malaysia's transnational land banks (2nd in the world for 2000-2014), and hints without subtlety about capital flight at a grotesque rate nationally.

Figure 7 Top 10 investors and target countries for concluded transnational land deals, 2000-2014.