State of the Malaysian Rainforest: report

RimbaWatch (formerly known as the Rimba Disclosure Project), as part of its efforts to monitor activities related to deforestation in Malaysia, has published a study entitled “State of the Malaysian Rainforest 2023” which collates and analyses all its data on past and potential future deforestation. This is the first time a study has been attempted to identify the economic drivers of past and future deforestation, estimate statistics for future deforestation, and provide an overall assessment of forestry governance – all on a national scale.

RimbaWatch first analysed deforestation based on an interpretation of Global Forest Watch (GFW)’s tree cover loss data to estimate that, between 2017 and 2021, Malaysia deforested 349,244 hectares, with Sarawak and Pahang experiencing the highest rates of deforestation. The biggest driver of past deforestation that could be identified for this period was timber plantations, accounting for 41.6% of deforestation, followed by palm oil which was responsible for only 15.5%.

Secondly, using data collected from desktop research which includes official forestry maps, project descriptions, etc., RimbaWatch has analysed 438 alerts concerning areas at risk of deforestation in the future through 5 categories: (a) zoning of forested land for non-forest usage, (b) real estate listings of forested land, (c) forest reserve degazettement, (d) approved forest-risk environmental impact assessments and (e) miscellaneous data. From our analysis we estimate that a further 2,346,601 hectares of forests in Malaysia have been earmarked for deforestation.

The Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment & Climate Change lists Malaysia’s 2017 forest cover at 18,332,583 hectares, which is 55.52% of our total land area. In the final analysis, through combining data for deforestation which occurred between 2017-2021 and potential future deforestation alerts, benchmarked against the 2017 forest cover as reported by the Ministry, RimbaWatch estimates that Malaysia’s forest cover could decrease to 15,636,737 hectares, or 47.35% of total land area, in the future. This is below Malaysia’s commitment to maintain 50% of its land as forest cover.

About RimbaWatch: RimbaWatch is an environmental watchdog building an independent, timely and open inventory of data and analytics on deforestation, climate change and human rights issues in Malaysia.

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RimbaWatch (Kuala Lumpur)
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The full study “State of the Malaysian Rainforest 2023” can be read here.