FAQs about the Borneo rainforest

3. How did Borneo become the world’s largest timber exporter?

Before the massive deforestation Borneo rainforest was almost impenetrable due to the great variety and quantity of trees and other plants that made it up. During hostile deforestation, the forests lost two thirds of their extension, while the island became the largest exporter of timber in the world, even above the Amazon and Africa together. In this way the beautiful and varied trunks of Borneo, crowned by beautiful green branches, in a short time came to China, Japan, the United States and Europe, its main buyers, where they became wooden houses, parquet floors, gates, staircases, furniture, paper, hooks for clothes and other artifacts. According to the newspaper El País, of Spain: “monster local boats enter to interior of island loaded with heavy last generation machinery, to return full of wood and coal”. Initially, most of the wood was extracted from Malaysia, in the northern states of Sabah and Sarawak. Then, the forests of southern Indonesia became the main source of tropical timber. The industrial wood trade took off in the 1970s. According to Mongabay, “The president of Indonesia Suharto distributed large tracts of forest to consolidate his political relations with army generals. Deforestation increased significantly in the 1980s, with the creation of roads for the access of settlers and developers to remote areas. At the same time, the government transmigration program in Indonesia had its heyday and sent more than 18,000 people a year for a decade to settle in Kalimantan. These migrants, mostly poor young people who lacked land in the crowded central islands of Java and Bali, were placed by the government on land that was often inadequate for traditional agriculture. Since they cannot keep up with agriculture, many of these people joined the logging companies to work.”

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