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MTC Timber Report Report
By Kapal Berita

17/10/2000 9:09 pm Tue


Dulu kini dan selamanya pembalak perompak negara..... Bacalah kisah tahun 1998 ini, muka yang sama kini menerajui negeri Sarawak.


Forest Networking a Project of, Inc.



Title: Malaysian Timber Council Statistics

Source: Malaysian Timber Council Statistics 1997.

Date: 12/1/98

While some cannot see the wood for the trees, there are also those who do not see the trees for the wood. Let us all remember that there is more to the forests than the wood and the trees.

In this era of rapid development and techno!logy, the question must be raised, `at what price?' Japan, as one of the world's economic giants, has been heavily criticised in newspapers and publications around the world for wrecking havoc on the earth's natural resources, particularly in Southeast Asian rain forests. Malaysia is a notable example, with various interrelated connections to Japan, all of which spell out a history of destruction and unsustainable development. Japan is a relatively resourceless country, throughout the last few centuries most necessary resources have been supplied by territories outside of mainland Japan, such as Manchuria and Korea during the Pacific War. This is not to say that Japan started off barren, without potential, on the contrary, Japan was, and is now again one of the most richly forested temperate nations of the world. However, due to large scale logging after the wars in order to keep up with the rush in development and a construction boom, Japan found itself stripped of its only valuable natural resource. Hence the only option became imports.

Japan turned first to her Southeast Asian cousins, initially the Philippines, then when stocks became limited, Thailand, Indonesia, Sabah and Sarawak (the two East Malaysian states), then more recently, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. This steady progress through some of Asia's most biologically diverse forests has been encouraged, and even initiated by Japanese sogoshosha, or general trading companies, which make a profit not by high prices, but rather the size of turnover, ensuring that even when demand is not present, supplies are still required to stockpile in anticipation of a future shortage. Japan's nine biggest sogoshosha include some big names like Mitsubishi, Marubeni, and Sumitomo, and together import over half of all timber that arrives in Japan. !note Jomo, K.S (1994) p189 These companies work with various government officials, and local timber firms to ensure constant supply, it would seem regardless of any environmental cost.

The effects of large scale logging is compounded by the downsides of Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA). The relationship between rain forests and ODA is complex, comprising at least three factors. Firstly, Japan's ODA loans to Malaysia were on a yen basis, and with the fall in the value of the ringitt have placed the country in quite serious debt, this has necessitated a concentrated effort to increase GNP in order to pay back the loan. Malaysia has few options to fund this debt as it is a country where the majority of people are still living at third world standards, while at the other end of the scale a small number of politicians and bureaucrats have assets totalling millions of dollars. Logging generates the most, and the easiest revenue, as unskilled workers can be utilised, and as long as the pockets of those in power are being lined, no governmental intervention will occur.

Secondly, Japanese ODA technical loans have funded the purchase of large scale machinery (such as tractors utilised for dragging logs), that Malaysia had neither the technical ability nor the funds to supply. These `technological transfers' have not always been accompanied by training, encouraging wanton use by people who know no better. Lastly Japanese ODA projects, although required to have an environmental impact assessment both prior to and after any activity, have often had environmental side- effects, all of which have been overlooked by the Japanese government. These construction projects include dams, power stations and roads, all of which require the clearing of land, and often necessitate the relocation of entire tribes, for whom the land was previously a tribal possession!.

Roads allow access to more remote areas of the jungle that would not have been possible to log, and facilitate slash and burn farmers who clear the land preventing any future reforestation. Imported wood is cheaper for Japan than reinstating her own logging businesses as essentially the forest in Malaysia is free. There is no ecological worth placed on the land, and no provision must be made for sustainable growth, so basically the only cost incurred is in the extraction and transport. Japan's forests are bound by very strict laws requiring certain levels of sustainability, and compensation must be paid to all those who are affected, either directly or indirectly. To add to this, Malaysia is so concerned with maintaining this crucial export market in Japan, that log prices have never reflected their true worth, even on the international market. Wood imported into Japan is used to make chopsticks, cheap furniture, and construction plywood (konpan!e) all of which are either single use products, or disposed of after being used one or two times, as in the case of konpane.

Illegal logging in order to keep up with the Japanese sogoshosha-driven demand has meant even more destruction as logging firms work under cover, in the dark, or using unreliable equipment. This is overlooked by Malaysian officials as most positions of power come complete with portfolio of logging concessions, enabling the official to utilise various portions of state land to whatever means they desire. Even ministers with portfolios such as Forestry, Environment, and Tourism hold such concessions.

Environmentalists around the world mourn the loss of one of the world's most biologically diverse rain forests, and the removal of other potential gains from this natural resource, such as medicines and antidotes. Negative effects of logging also include land slips, global temperature changes, desertification and loss of wildlife. Native people who once lived on the land are now forced to start over elsewhere, with no compensation, often without the natural resources they have depended on for centuries.

Japan is the world's top donor of ODA in monetary terms , but the portion of this money spent on the environment or environment-related aspects is minimal (2.5 per cent of the $US9.44 billion total aid in 1996) , and appears to be implemented more as a comeback to universal criticism rather than any great desire to promote sustainable development. An ironical point is that due to considerable effort on behalf of the Japanese government, Japan has now reached the stage of over-forestation, causing rural disharmony, and encroaching on private land needed for farming. However although the obvious solution would appear to be commercial timber use, the costs of doing so are still much higher than wood available from Malaysia, and the timber is of a poorer quality. Before the end of this century Japan must rectify the situation. This essay will now explore the aforementioned points in greater depth.

For many years prior to World War Two, mountain forest covering over two- thirds of all national land area in Japan contributed food, fuel and timber to local farmers. However during the immediate pre-war and wartime years substantial logging extracted the majority of this forest. The Japanese were focused on competing with other industrialised nations, and to this end utilised vast quantities of timber. A lack of natural resources was one of the catalysts which led to the occupation of nearby lands such as Manchuria, Korea and Sakhalin, where Japan nearly doubled the area of natural forest resources available. However with the high demands of the war effort, these resources were soon diminished, and Japan was forced to look to her own forests. These too subsequently suffered from severe over-logging, and as initially Japan did not have the financial ability to import the large quantities of wood required for construction being carried out throughout the nation, forests were depleted to minimum levels. This also had added impact environmentally, as the "loss of tree cover led to repeated downstream floods, landslides and river silting in many rural areas".

The general post-war shortage of timber naturally led to a rise in prices, practically halting all construction, so an alternative was crucial. The government weighed up the costs, and originally attempted importing from the USSR and North America, but the supply still fell short of demand, and a more prolific resource base was sought. Southeast Asia seemed an obvious choice, in particular the Philippines, where money-hungry Marcos in power encouraged any potential profit generator. By 1973, all the easily accessible forest areas in the Philippines were exhausted, and the remaining sources were not only in areas difficult to extract from, but also generally of lesser quality. Focus then shifted to Thailand and Indonesia, until faced with possible total deforestation, the Indonesian government banned the export of logs in 1986. font color="#0000cc">Meanwhile investment had started moving towards Sabah and Sarawak, the two East Malaysian states on the island of Borneo.

At present Japan is the biggest importer of wood from Southeast Asia and nearly single-handedly stripped almost all of the primary rain forests in Thailand and the Philippines. According to Martin Khor (of the Asia Pacific People's environment Network) and other environmentalists at a series of Japanese conferences addressing global warming, "Japan is mainly responsible for environmental problems in the Asia-Pacific region.... It is the biggest importer of wood from jungles in Southeast Asia. Primary rain forests in Thailand and the Philippines have been almost entirely stripped". From their own experience in local rain forests, Asian logging companies, the majority backed by Japanese sogoshosha, are "depleting an ecologically important resource at unconscionable rates and violating native rights".

font color="#0000cc">Between 1963 and 1985 at least thirty percent of Sarawak's total forest area was logged, (nearly half the wood going to Japan) and more than two thirds of Sarawak's remaining rain forest is licensed for commercial timber use.! Japan imported 2.26 million cubic metres of logs from Sarawak in the first five months alone of 1993, worth RM894.2 million, and was the biggest single buyer of Sarawak logs for the whole of 1992. This trend remains, with Japan importing 45 per cent of all logs and 57 per cent of all plywood exported from Sarawak between January and December 1997. Japan now imports over eighty percent of all wood consumed in Japan. Consistently Japan purchases at least 45% of all exports of logs from Saraw!ak, 37 percent of plywood, but only 6 percent of sawn timber (the highest revenue spinner). As a consumer, Japan actually imported 47 percent of all tropical timber available on the international market in 1996 (compared to China, the next biggest importer with 15 percent), while Malaysia produced 48 percent of all tropical logs, sawn timber and veneer sold world-wide.

font color="#cc0000">Sarawak now accounts for almost half the world's export volume of tropical logs, despite a 1990 International Tropical Timber Organisation estimate that Sarawak's primary forests would be logged out in eleven years. The ITTO has also set an objective of sustainable forest management world-wide by the year 2000, as by their calculations under one percent of the 60 million m3 of timber extracted from tropical forests is harvested on a sustainable basis. In 1993 the Sabah state government banned all log exports from the state in an effort to combat deforestation, a ban that was lifted in 1996, but was replaced with numerous restrictions, limiting the number of timber concessionaires, but lengthening the period the concession was held; requiring that loggers use techniques involving pre- cutting and directional felling to protect vast areas of forest from being ravaged by bulldozers; and putting into effect a selective export quota for logs, specifying permissible species etc. The state also has a target of 250,000 ha of its land reforested by the year 2000.

The role of the Japanese sogoshosha is complex one. Japan has sixteen general trading companies, including Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsui & Company Ltd., Itochu & Company Ltd., Sumitomo Corporation, Marubeni Corporation and Nissho Iwai Corporation. According to Fortune magazine's 1998 Global 500 list, in terms of sales, Mitsui is the world's third largest corporation, followed by Mitsubishi (fourth), Itochu (sixth), and Marubeni (ninth). Sumitomo ranks tenth, and Nissho Iwai is thirteenth. These companies are considered to be the backbone to Japan's incredible growth. Sogoshosha are primarily trade intermediaries which supply a range of services to facilitate and co-ordinate trade at a small cost. They work at remarkably low profit margins and seek to generate profit by stimulating and maintaining demand for immense volumes of natural resources.

In order to ensure the volume demanded by construction firms in Japan is available, the trading companies provide credit and equipment to Southeast Asian loggers, often in excha!nge for logs or guaranteed purchasing agreements. The joint turnover of the main sogoshosha equates to approximately one quarter of Japan's entire GDP, an indication of the size and power of these large trading companies. In order to cover fluctuations in the market, sogoshosha buy up excessive quantities of timber, and store it for future use. Unfortunately this has a domino effect, and in anticipation of a short supply, other sogoshosha will also buy up large. This of course fuels massive extraction efforts, and drives unsustainable resource use. Many of the logging firms have low interest loans from the Japanese sogoshosha, and this propels them to sell more and more, in order to pay back the debt. Other firms are actually joint owned, and as Malaysian law requires a local equity of at least 60 percent, Japanese sogoshosha may even advance the local firm the balance required. This again necessitates bulk extraction to facilitate financing the debts.

As the market in Japan will consider only the top quality logs and timber, there is much wastage. It was noted by Stan Sesser after his journey through Sarawak in 1991 that there were "logs piled on either side of the river- tens of thousands of logs........ they were logs that had been brought downriver, inspected by the Japanese buyers, and rejected, either because they were the wrong species or because they were marred by defects". font color="#cc0000"> In retaliation to criticism, Mitsubishi and 86 other prominent members of the Japan Lumber Importers' Association have contributed a $70,000 fund aimed at promoting environmental research. Although the amount can surely be put to good use, this is only about $800 per company. There are still Japanese engineers directing the building of bridges and logging roads, and Japanese companies are supplying heavy machinery to the Malaysian firms that would be financially impossible to acquire otherwise. At present (May 1998) Japanese sogoshosha are still reported to be holding large, inactive stocks of timber.

Loggers have degraded an irreplaceable forest gene pool that had stood largely undisturbed for millennia in the rush to extract hardwoods to be turned into scaffolding, chopsticks and paper, mostly for the Japanese market. Three quarters of tropical hardwood coming into Japan ends up as plywood, mostly for the construction industry, whereas in most other countries, a low cost, plantation softwood is used. The plywood is mainly utilised in the moulding of concrete walls, and is used maybe two or three times before being disposed of. This plywood is known as kon-pane or construction panelling, and none other than the best quality tropical hardwood will do. Construction firms shun plantation plywood from North America due to its knotty surface and uneven grain compared with the `smooth as silk' rain forest timber.

In Japanese cities, plywood made of cheap tropical timber is used for such purposes as to protect walls from being scratched during renovations or construction. Other timber is made into cheap furniture that is often thrown away when the owners change house. "The average Japanese uses more
than twice the amount of paper and paperboard per year than the average European, reflecting the widespread throwaway attitude in Japan".

Government leaders in Japan are quick to defend criticism of large scale purchasing of cheap tropical timber, and state that Japanese firms are increasingly under pressure to accept more products from Southeast Asian nations as the growth of those countries depends on "the production of low-priced, high-quality products and their acceptance in the world's marketplaces". In defence of the tendency of the Japanese to purchase cheap timber from overseas rain forests rather than using local supplies, Japanese foresters themselves emphasise the fact that it is easy for Southeast Asian countries to offer cheaper wood as sustainable forestry is not practised, they do not incur the costs of forest reproduction.. There is also widespread Japanese perception that Japanese timber is different from and therefore irreplaceable by foreign wood, hence the value of foreig!n timber should be less.

Taking into account the total cost of cutting down a tree in Sarawak, shipping it to Japan, milling the timber into thin sheets and gluing them together to make plywood, it still costs less than it does to make plywood from an inferior Japanese softwood. The main reason for this is that basically the Sarawak rain forests are free, so compensation for the use of the land is not a factor in the cost of the tree. The government does not charge for logging concessions, rather it gives them out, and the natives who have lived on the land for centuries get nothing. If environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports were enforced in Sarawak, more of the environmental cost might be incorporated into the price of the log, but in the first five years of this being a legal requirement, no EIAs were submitted to the Department of the Environment.

Due to the rather tenuous grasp on timber concessions in Malaysia as politicians win and lose, the onus is on maximum extraction in minimum time. Although restrictions detailing selective felling exist, many logging companies ignore this in an effort to log the capacity required for them to meet the customers demands, put sufficient money in the pockets of the politicians who distribute the timber concessions, or pay back the Japanese loans that are often given under the table, and hence uninsured. Under-declaration of the wood extracted and exported is common, with exporters `fiddling' the accounts in order to pay less to the government in royalties and tax, while concealing illegal profits. By looking at statistics from both Malaysia and Japan, it would suggest that more wood arrives in Japan than has been declared as exports from the country of origin. Such illegal behaviour has been ignored by the sogoshosha importing the timber. It is thought that in the early 1990's, thirty to forty percent of total log exports may have been recorded inaccurately to avoid government charges.

In the five years from 1991-96, over 152 cases of illegal logging were detected by the Malaysian State Forestry Department, seventy three of which were carried out on forest reserves, while another seventy nine were on government-owned land.chftn Due to difficulties in bringing such cases to the attention of often corrupt officials, this is most likely just the tip of the iceberg. Another negative side effect of this rush to extract large volumes results in very unskilled staff working in very dangerous conditions. Those who drive the bulldozers are paid per tree cut, and as they are given no map, they simply drive into the forest looking for suitable timber. When the trees are cut down, no attention is paid to where or how they fall, so that when the skidders -tractors to drag the logs out- go in they have no idea where the logs are, and drive around aimlessly until they find them. It is estimated that as no precise cutting methods are used, when a tree is felled, up to ten other trees can be lost or seriously damaged as it falls. If rice is growing in fields surrounding the forest area desired, the bulldozers will still take the shortest route possible, even if it totally destroys the crops.

Injury is high amongst the mostly unskilled workers, with someone killed nearly every week, and although logging employs less than five percent of the Sarawak workforce, in 1983 timber companies reported 67% of all fatal accidents in the state. Over the last seventeen years more than a thousand workers in the timber industry have been killed. The statistics get worse. In 1980, one in five workers suffered injury and one in four hundred was killed, a figure more than twenty-one times that of the timber industry in Canada. The danger is intensified when a company feels the pressure to produce more timber or logs in a certain time frame, whether it be to keep up with exporters' demands, or perhaps when a politician's future looks tenuous, and there are doubts as to whether the timber concession will remain valid. Sometimes truck drivers are forced to work all night in the dark, operating on very little sleep, an issue that has not yet induced the government to suspend or revoke a company's licence. As remaining forests are getting sparser, illegal logging operators and poachers have found it lucrative to take logs and animals from national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, as obviously the gains far outweigh the risks being taken

Unfortunately, the make-up of Malaysia's political system does nothing to curb illegal or highly destructive practices among logging companies. If anything, the money-hungry politicians encourage it. Although forests have multiple functions, such as providing both timber and non-timber resources and supplying numerous environmental and cultural services, factors besides the obvious monetary gain from wood exports are often not considered by the government. Sabah and Sarawak have state governments separate from the central government, as they only joined the Malaysian Federation in 1963, and Britain tried to ensure that its lucrative colonial possessions passed into safe hands. Sarawak was accorded the power to set its own land policies, and from then (1963) until 1985 about 30 percent of Sarawak's total forest land was logged. Over the last two decades timber economics has been the basis for much of Malaysian state- level politics, with timber concessionary rights the coveted prize for political office and power. At present concessions are given to potential political backers, friends, family, and royalty.

The logging concessions controlled by the most senior politician in Sarawak at present, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud have been established to be worth about RM10 million. Other current, key ministers hold comparable concessions, a noteworthy example being the Minister of the Environment and Tourism, Datuk Wong, who is head of Limbang Trading, which controls about 300 thousand! hectares of forest in Sarawak. He upholds that logging is good for the forest, saying that all the animals have returned, and there are more fruits and nuts than in previous years. Limbang Trading has purportedly even sold timber that is on the government's protected species list, established by the Select Committee on Fauna and Flora, which is chaired by Datuk Wong himself.

Chief Minister Taib's family including his uncle, sister, and sons are all partners in various logging and plywood operations, and these ties weaken supervision of state implementers, distort formal policies and undermine state capacity to enforce regulations. It does not raise an eyebrow in Sarawak that the Environment Minister moonlights as a logger. Wong himself has stated that he cannot understand what the fuss is about, as he is not logging in protected areas. He also feels that only a relatively modest reduction in logging is needed to make the Sarawak rain forest sustainable indefinitely.

Many world bodies such as the ITTO have recommended that the Forestry Department in Sarawak simply freeze logging concessions, but any commitments made by the Malaysian government have not yet been translated into practice as there are large profits still to be made. The present system of handing out concessions for free is unaccountable, and does not generate fair revenue to the State. Political abuse and patronage are rife as concessions are handed out as political favours to reward politicians' allies and buy off opponents. Sarawak is a state nearly half the size of New Zealand (47% of total land area), yet over half of all land is officially zoned for logging, compared with the eight percent which is decreed to be permanently protected. The remainder is available to be deforested for `development'.

There are major discrepancies in the Malaysian Timber Council requirement for EIAs, for example, it is only necessary to submit an EIA report with a concession area of more than 500 ha, and that only those concessions approved on or after April 1, 1988 are required by the Act to submit anything at all. As political elite in the state are dependent on the wealth generated from timber exploitation for their personal gain, measures and policies initiated at the federal level can not be enforced in Sarawak. In order to evade the necessity of submitting EIAs, many new logging concessions were claimed to be extensions of concessions awarded before the 1988 cut-off date. Large concessions are appropriated into areas less than 500 ha and awarded to different subsidiaries of the same parent companies.

There have been persistent complaints and reports by affected communities with regard to illegal felling, pollution of water-catchments, removal of protected tree species, damages to their farmlands and clashes over land rights, but no action has been taken by the government. In January, 1998, several Iban tribesmen, some as young as 13, were shot and arrested in Sarawak for protesting at the! loss of their home and livelihood. No explanation was given on their arrests, and they were held until the case was tried in court three months later. In 1991 it was shown that the combined acreage of Chief Minister Taib, and his influential uncle Abdul Rahman Yakub (who was actually Taib's predecessor) amounted to half the forest land in Sarawak still available for logging at that time. Foreign owned timber companies in Malaysia have to pay Malaysian taxes, but their financial statements often end up showing losses or only small profits, a trend which is largely ignored by state officials. Politicians face an election every five years, and if they lose, their successors could revoke the concessions, so there is great importance on getting as many logs as viable out of the rain forest as quickly as possible. !

Japanese companies have been criticised for their approach to environmental issues abroad. Aid projects themselves have contributed directly or indirectly to environmental destruction in the recipient countries. In 1992 the Japanese government began to suggest new directions for ODA (Official Development Assistance), in particular a compatibility with environmental preservation. However, generalist aid administrators and managers are lacking at government agencies in Japan, along with a shortage of specialists in various fields. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducts "post-project" evaluation on sustainability and impact concerning those projects that have been completed two to four years previously, however as yet no flaws in the system have been noted by the Japanese government. In the 1998 evaluation results, 33 projects relating to forestry and agriculture were evaluated amongst the total 167. Of the whole, 28 projects were identified as in need of "certain improvements", and 1 as unsuccessful as a whole. However detailed information concerning the direct environmental impact of all ODA projects, or even what improvements were required in most cases was not given in this report.

"Government-sponsored development projects, typically supported by bilateral loans or multilateral lending agencies have compromised a number of major rain forests". For the most part this is unintentional as government agencies may be unaware of the location of protected areas (often unmarked and constantly being revised in Malaysia), or they may not appreciate the true value of the resources that appear in the area. These and other competing interests tend to overrule any thoughts towards sustainable development. The director of Japan's `Friends of the Earth' movement, Yukio Tanaka criticised in 1993 his homeland saying, "Japan's contributions are made in money, and it has no law-binding aid policies to protect the environment". Many Japanese manufacturers are shifting plant to Asia to take advantage of the cheap labour and land prices, initiating comments like the "environmentally unfriendly behaviour of Corporate Japan".

In 1990, Malaysia owed Japan approximately $5.6 billion U.S. in aid loans , an amount which with the diminishing value of the ringitt looks set to put the nation into bankruptcy. Loans have financed road and logging projects that destroy tropical rain forests, deplete natural resources, eradicate untold numbers of species, and displace thousands of people. This is despite Japan being a world leader with regards to other environmental issues, for example its per-capita energy consumption is the lowest among leading industrialised nations, vehicle emission standards are the world's strictest, and it has world class anti-pollution technology.

C. Itoh, one of the Japanese sogoshosha operation in the Southeast Asian region built a road into dense tropical rain forest in Sarawak in 1982, entirely financed by Japan's foreign aid programme. Although there was much protest from local natives, it was only when international media attention focused on the Japanese Government, that any reparation was made by very embarrassed officials. Yoichi Kuroda, coordinator of the Japan Tropical Forest Action Network, asserted as early as 1989 that Japanese government policies fail to focus on how to reduce Japanese consumption of tropical timber. Officials justify sending foreign aid to build logging roads by arguing that the roads will be travelled by local people, when in fact the only use by locals could be by hitchhiking rides, "clinging dangerously to the back of speeding vehicles overloaded with logs".

In 1996 Malaysia was the sixth highest recipient of technical cooperations under the Bilateral Assistance banner in terms of financial support. JICA (the Japan International Cooperation Agency) actually funded a major forestry project in Sabah from 1987 to 1994, and provided expert knowledge on reforestation, equipment (such as bulldozers, front-end loaders, and fire-fighting equipment), and training in Japan with regard to planting techniques and silvicultural methods for timber plantations. This project had considerable success in the planting of plantation trees, but in contrast Sarawak has not benefited from any such project so it is obvious that this was only an issue in hindsight after all logging for export was banned in Sabah. It would be too dangerous to implement such a project in Sarawak at this stage as it could reveal problems with the current situation which might reduce log exports. Japanese ODA projects in Sarawak instead tend to be primarily inventories of forest resources, which it is suggested actually encourage and facilitate further logging by providing a directory of remaining timber, the timber quality, and how to access it.

Even more direct Japanese Official Development Assistance projects see the introduction of unsustainable logging techniques that are often unsuitable for successful tropical forest management as they make use of heavy machinery which causes considerable damage to smaller trees and the forest floor. Other projects not targeted at the forestry sector have also had adverse effects on the rain forest. Dam construction, roads, power stations, metal refineries and factories all affect the local area in often overlooked ways. Dams flood large areas of farmland and forest, and change the natural environment and ecosystems further down the valley.

Roads enable land-less farmers to penetrate the forest in order to convert logged-over land into agricultural land. Power stations, metal refineries and factories affect the local habitat, polluting the air and rivers which plants, animals, and people depend upon for food, drinking water, and medicines. Natural forests play important roles in preventing soil erosion, flooding, drought and in maintaining soil stability and fertility. Logging and development activities d!isrupt these ecological functions. Dams trap silt and valuable nutrients, affecting distribution to downstream fisheries and agricultural activities. Mud and chemicals from logging machinery wash downstream and contaminate water supply. Government figures reveal that some 60% of Sarawak's rivers suffer such pollution.

There are other projects put forward to the World Bank by Japan which actually contradict the World Bank policy to preserve primary tropical forests. Fundamental planning problems occur due to the fragmented nature of Japanese ODA. Of the three bodies that act under the ODA banner, JICA is concerned mainly with technical aid, the OECF (Overseas !Economic Cooperation Fund) provides funding for the above, and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) must oversee all projects. The Environment Agency and the Ministry of Finance also contribute, and as bureaucrats in Japan are usually rotated from section to section every four years, it is difficult to accumulate a highly experienced and skilled staff base to work on ODA issues.

Tropical rain forests cover a mere 6% of the world's surface, yet they are the earth's most diverse biological habitat. They contain over half the species of animal and plant life found on this planet, and are of vital importance to global ecological processes. Forty per cent of all drugs prescribed in the USA are derived from rain forest plants, and it is thought that this is only 2% of all potential drugs able to be created from rain !forest plants. Rain forests are crucial in maintaining the balance of local environments by preventing flooding, soil erosion and changes in climate. The Northwest part of Borneo (including all of Sarawak) is the richest forest in terms of tree species in the world. Some twenty thousand species of flowering plants, several thousand species of trees (compared with a total of 8924 native plants in New Zealand), hundreds of species of butterflies, a hundred and eighty species of mammals, and more than a hundred kinds of fruiting trees are contained in Sarawak's rain forests. Many of these thousands of tree species are 150 feet tall in this rain forest that is 10 million years old. Numerous birds, mammals, and a third of all plant species are endemic to Borneo. At present, under one percent of this forest is harvested on a sustainable basis, despite the obvious destruction and loss to society in Malaysia as a whole. In a survey of commercial operations in Malaysia, extraction of only 10 per cent of the trees in an area led to an additional 55 per cent being damaged or destroyed in the process.

In August 1998 Dr Steve Howard of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) made a statement to world media warning that 77 species of the world's trees are already extinct, and at present rates, another 10 per cent face imminent extinction. This poses an incredible risk as most living species are dependent for their survival on trees, and 90 per cent of these species live in tropical forests. Renewable resources continue to be used at rates that are clearly unsustainable, with little or no thought to the future. In 1991 ITTO findings showed that nowhere in the world has sustainable management been proven over even a single rotation period. It also indicates that figures giving present sustainably produced logs at 1 per cent may be far too high. Their estimate is nearer one eighth of 1 per cent, and shows that virtually all of Sarawak's forests will have been logged by the year 2000.

Even the Interim Report of the Council on ODA Reforms for the 21st Century put out by MOFA comments that some developing countries have been confronted with an array of increasingly serious environmental problems as a consequence of rapid economic growth. These problems range from forest depletion and encroaching desertification to global warming. The logging of tropical rain forest is a serious global problem, it does not just affect Malaysia. However at present it is Malaysia which is bearing the brunt of it as with expansion of agricultural land brought about by access via logging roads, excessive logging and over grazing, Southeast Asian tropical forests are being depleted at a rate of 12.6 million ha per year, an area equivalent to one-third the land area of Japan. Another potential money spinner and global benefit is being overlooked by both the money-hungry Malaysian government, and the timber-hungry Japanese. This is ethnobotany, which involves the study of plant life to source out those which could offer possible cures for disease. Dr Abdul Latiff Mohamed, the biodiversity expert at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, (one of the top two universities in the country), found a plant that had the potential to cure breast cancer if detected at an early stage. In Sabah the most sensational breakthrough has been the discovery of a potential AIDS cure from the Bintangor plant. Another plant extract that seems to have an inhibitory effect on HIV, the virus that causes AIDS has been found in Sarawak. Needless to say, Latiff feels it is time that authorities came out with an order to protect local resources with such potential.

Biodiversity is a term coined in the last decade, and refers to the "range of variation among plants, animals and micro-organism, genes, species and ecosystems" It is a fact that at present depletion rates due to man's ignorance, more than half of all flora, fauna and marine life will be extinct by the year 2100. Sarawak has 9 national parks and 3 wildlife sanctuaries, covering a total of 2.31% of the state's land area. The aim of these is to preserve and maintain maximum biological diversity (biodiversity), and to conserve endangered species. It has been known for some time that larger areas of forest contain more species than do smaller ones. If an area of habitat declines in size, the end result is faunal collapse - the number of species declines - hence it is more important to protect a few very large areas than numerous small areas. If only a small area of primary forest is available to be protected, it is recommended that it is joined to another via a passage of secondary forest. There is a minimum viable population of any species, which is the number of individuals need for a population of animals to survive in the long-term, and appears to be at least in the low thousands when counting breeding adults. In an ironic twist, most rain forests would collapse without their resident animal and bird species, so it is crucial that a network of inter-connecting protected forests should be established.

At present the main problem facing those wanting to implement such protected areas in Sarawak is conflicting claims on land such as timber extraction, agriculture, and aquaculture. The government is quite happy to gazette secondary forest (i.e. replanted forest, often a single species) as protected areas, but many animal species rely on specific trees for their livelihood so this is not the best idea. According to figures published in 1997, almost half the area originally covered by tropical rain forests world-wide has been converted or seriously degraded. Fires have increased in frequency and extent because logging operations leave highly combustible slash on the ground. Forests located higher than 762m above sea-level are supposed to remain untouched as a safeguard for slopes, water supply and wildlife and plant conservation. However, due to the rush to extract timber in large volumes for predominantly Japanese consumers, such ideals are pushed aside.

The people who are suffering the most from this mass logging in Sarawak are of course the natives who have lived in the forests for hundreds of years. The destruction of the native people's environment is denying them access to forest produce, for making baskets, for constructing canoes and longhouses, for their medicines, arrow poisons and blowpipes, for resins, fruits and dyes. Mean intakes of protein have declined from 54kg/person/year to only 12 kg/person/year according to a WWF study while in recently logged areas there is a serious increase in malnutrition, affecting approximately 31% of the population. If the average nutrition statistics are compared between Malaysia and Japan and New Zealand, the daily protein intake is 65gm, 80gm, and 165gm respectively. Obviously this only gives a broad overview, but with the Japanese tending to eat less meat than other countries, and the Malaysians considering meat a dominant part of their diet, the figures for Malaysia seem very low, even taking into account their "newly developed nation" status. The lack of foods containing protein and vitamins is obvious with the extremely high instances of intestinal parasitic diseases and dysentery. Elders of the tribes say that some logging companies give the settlements the equivalent of $8,000 a year for logging on their land, a generous offer compared to most, but divided between some 200 inhabitants it is a pittance in comparison to the lost wild boar, medicinal bark, and fruit trees that could previously be depended upon.

In recent years, Japan has been eager to point out that it is the world's top donor of ODA in monetary terms, also contributing whole-heartedly to the coffers of such multi-lateral organisations as the ITTO and the World Bank. However the question must be raised as to for what reason is this supposed act of great kindness so eagerly proclaimed. Japan started !out as a recipient of aid after the Second World War, and as its GNP has increased has become a large-scale donor. The then prime minister Ryuutaro Hashimoto stated in June 1997 at the United Nations General Assembly special session on the environment that Japan is playing an important role in promoting sustainable development in developing countries. He also spelled out five points illustrating Japan's environmental ODA policy for the future, including the conservation of nature.

Five years prior to this Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa defined environmental ODA as including forestry conservation and natural environment conservation, highlighting conservation as one of the basic aims of Japanese assistance. During the creation of the ODA charter in June 1992 one of the underlying philosophies was recorded as "the necessity for conserving the environment" Yet despite these heart- warming ideals and goals, to date a decided reluctance by the Japanese government to address any specific environmental issues such as the deforestation of Southeast Asia has been observed. For example, in 1995 potential environmental conservation projects included those related to air pollution in China and Indonesia, waste disposal in Morocco and Romania, forests in Malawi, and the urban environment in Thailand. Yen loans directed at the environment have gone to such countries as Thailand (electricity energy project, Flue gas desulfurisation, water supply improvement), Sri Lanka (flood control and environment improvement), Argentina (river sanitation), India (afforestation), and Indonesia (beach conservation). These are of course well thought-out and admirable contributions, but Malaysia, (or any other Southeast Asian country), does not seem to have benefited from any afforestation projects such as that in India.

In the 1995 ODA summary the four principles of the ODA charter were revised and commented on in depth, with "environmental conservation and development should be pursued in tandem" relocated as the most important principle. In recent years Japan has directed aid towards reforestation and forest conservation projects around the world, however only in places such as Thailand where the rain forest has already been wiped out, and Brazil, Sri Lanka and Chile, where Japan has had no previous impact whatsoever. In 1994 only 4.4 per cent of ODA allotted to the environment went to forest preservation, yet in the specific summary of aid to Malaysia, Environmental Conservation was listed as the top priority. In 1997 and 1998, the only aid concerning Malaysia was a mining project, however the ITTO is at present considering two project proposals in Malaysia: studies on the "Management standards of hill dipterocarp forests in Sarawak from a Watershed management point of view", and "Tree flora of Sabah and Sarawak", which will hopefully have an impact on timber extraction in Sarawak.

Japan is still releasing statements that consistently contradict its actions. A decade ago in Paris at a G7 meeting Japan announced it would increase aid directed at tropical forests in particular, and ensure that both its foreign aid programme and the overseas activities of private Japanese corporations pay more attention to the environment. Even as recently as the 1997 Denver Summit Japan presented its intentions to strengthen efforts in the environmental sector, pointing out that it is extremely important that industrialised countries provide assistance for necessary environmental considerations in development, in order that developing countries achieve sustainable development. Despite these fine ideals, Japanese sogoshosha are still buying vast quantities of Malaysian timber, while assuring international environmental organisations that it will promote projects which demonstrate sustainable forest management. Japan is even a dominant supporter of the ITTO, in fact the headquarters are based in Tokyo. ITTO's 1997 goals include the protection of tropical forests and the implementation of a strategy for achieving sustainably managed tropical timber exports by the year 2000.

Despite all efforts on behalf of the Japanese government to reassure international environmental groups and the media that it is fervently trying to stop global deforestation, many remain unconvinced. Even a Japanese Environment Agency official was quoted as saying that the major motivation for increasing environmental aid was Japan's sensitivity to criticism from the United States and Europe. Others comment that Japan's ability to expand its environmental aid depends entirely on whether recipients think it is valuable to them, highlighting yet another reason why very little environmental aid concerning rain forest protection has been given to the ambivalent Malaysian government.

In an ironic twist of fate, upland Japan is suffering from under-cutting of timber and over-forestation. Since the deforestation after World War Two, forestry policy in Japan has been directed at national tree-planting days. Every year a tree-planting festival (shokujusai) is held in a different prefecture and attended by the Emperor himself, who plants three tree saplings followed by a mass planting by all others gathered. It is estimated that over ten million hectares of new timber forest has been planted over the last forty or so years, yet imports still account for nearly eighty per cent of all wood consumption in Japan. To accomplish such massive reforestation in such a short period of time is a feat unheard of previously, and shows the Japanese people's great love of their forests.

However this reforestation is becoming a great problem in rural Japan. As wood prices are so low there is no economic incentive to tend the forest plantations, and many owners live far away in the cities, so are unable to attend to their trees. The forest is encroaching on the village and the tall trees make it a darker place, reducing yields in outlying rice- fields. Graveyards are dark and unpleasant to visit, and the tree roots push through the soil to the buried human remains. Despite being vacated only twenty years ago, some abandoned upland villages have been totally overgrown and have become forest. Japan is in the unique position of having successfully reforested her own land, however these skills are not being utilised as potential ODA resources.

This problem can be solved. Malaysia is finally taking a good look at the destruction rampant in its countryside, and in the 1996 7th Malaysia Plan, the conservation of natural resources and the sustainable use of natural resources were top priorities. In particular a long term goal of at least 50 per cent forest cover in the long term was stated. Japanese sogoshosha are slowly coming to terms with global pressure, and in May 1998 Daiken Sarawak Sdn. Bhd., a Malaysian-Japanese fibreboard company of which 20 per cent of the holdings are owned by Itochu Corporation, announced plans to develop a 5000 ha forest plantation in Sarawak to ensure stable supply of raw materials in the future. This is planned to start in 1999, and hopefully will encourage other sogoshosha supported timber companies to either initiate reforestation or move to more sustainable methods of logging.

The WWF called in 1992 for GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) to allow producer countries to protect their timber processing industries while permitting consumer countries to discriminate between timber on the basis of sustainably based production. !ote WWF International Discussion Paper (1992) p 2 At present voluntary labelling of products such as timber as being sustainably produced is certainly legal, but mandatory labelling is doubtful as it contradicts GATT rulings on trade discrimination. In 1996, the ITTO made their 1994 proposal on sustainable management by the year 2000 a formal agreement, thereby enforcing all timber sold on the international market by ITTO countries (including both Malaysia and Japan) after the year 2000 to be produced in a sustainable manner.

Japan must come to terms with the damage it has done in Southeast Asia and use both its knowledge and resources to rectify the situation. Deforestation in Malaysia has largely been ignored as an issue in Malaysia, but this does not exempt Japan from sustainable resource use. Japan must bring its actions and input in Southeast Asian nations into line with its ODA goals, rather than simply producing large quantities of propaganda about its environmental concern, but having very little actual impact on some global issues, particularly protection of the rain forests. These ODA goals are focused in the correct area but technical knowledge and a strong support base must be provided to countries such as Malaysia in order to stop the destruction of the rain forest. If nothing is done and the situation continues in much the same vein as in recent years, with Japanese sogoshosha ignoring their part in environmental damage, and corrupt Malaysian officials choosing also to ignore it, then it is certain that within the next decade all remaining tropical rain forest will be logged with unforeseeable consequences on both the global climate and all living creatures.

Source: Malaysian Timber Council Statistics 1997. Available at

ibid. p 66
Timber Trades journal (30.05.98) p 10 Associated Press (7.5.96)
See appendix
Sesser, S (1991) p 66,67
quoted in Jomo, K.S (1994) p 187
Kuwabara K (30.12.89)
Knight, J (1997)
Sesser, S (1991) p 66
New Straits Times (29.9.93)
Jomo, K.S (1994) p 190
Dauvergne, P (1997) p 168
Star Publications (21.11.96)
! Sesser, S (1991) p 48
ibid. p 54
ibid p 54
ibid. p 56
ibid. p 63
Ngui, S.K (1992)
Ministry of Science, Technology & the Environment (1997) Jomo, K.S (1994)
Dauvergne, P (1997)
ibid. p 112
Sesser, S (1991) p 65
! Colchester, Dr M (1992)
Associated Press (7.5.1996)
Hollis (1.10.1993)
Hollis (1.10.1993)
Iban update, (23.01.98)
Sesser, S (1991) p 63
Knight, J (1997) p 3
Fujisaki, T. et al (1996) p 3-11
Evaluation Results (FY 1996)
!16 van Schaik, C.P. et al (1997) p 85 ibid, 226
Sato, M. (5.7.1993)
Reuters (4.1.90)
Brull, S. (3.10.89)
Christian Science Monitor (11.7.89)
Sesser, S (1991) p 66
MOFA statistics (1996)
Dauvergne, P (1997) p 123
Ministry of Science, Technology & the Environment (1997) p 67 Colchester, M (1992)
Jomo, K.S. (1994) p 191-194
Jomo, K.S. (1994) p 182
WWF International Discussion Paper (1992) Reuters (25.8.98)
United Nations Chronicle (1997)
Juniper, T (1991)
Interim Report of the Council on ODA Reforms for the 21st Century. (1997) Initiatives for Sustainable Development Toward the 21st Century. (1997) The Sun (26.7.98)
Lee, H.S. (1996)
"Ethnobotany..." The Sun (26.7.98)
New Straits Times Press. (26.7.98)
Bennett, E.L (1992)
van Schaik, C. P. et al. (1997)
Butler, R (24.2.97)
See graph in Appendix
Colchester, M. (1992)
United Nations Statistics, 1998.
Sesser, S (1991) p 58
Associated Press (7.5.96)
MOFA 1997 Summary
MOFA Economic Cooperation Bureau !pamphlet 1996 Japan's ODA Charter
International Cooperation Initiatives 1997 ibid. p 270
ITTO, Annual report for 1997
Christion Science Monitor (11.7.89) p 1 Denver Summit Information, MOFA 1997
Potter, D.M (1994) p 3
ibid. p 6
Knight, J (1997) p 4
ibid. p 6
ibid. p 8
Bernama (4.5.98)
The Economist, (30.1.93)