Deforestation in Malaysia Case Study


About Malaysia

  • Malaysia is a country in South East Asia
  • It is made up of Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, which is part of the island of Borneo.
  • The natural vegetation in Malaysia is tropical rainforest.
  • 67% of Malaysia’s land is covered by rainforest.
  • The rate of deforestation in Malaysia is increasing faster than in any tropical   country in the world.
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Causes of deforestation (1/3)


  • Malaysia became the world’s largest exporter of tropical wood in the 1980’s. Clear felling, where all trees are chopped down in an area, was common. This le to the total destruction of forest habitats.
  • Recently, clear felling has largely been replaced by selective logging, where only fully-grown trees are cut down. Trees that have important ecological value are left unharmed.

Road building

  • Roads are constructed to provide access to mining areas, new settlements and energy projects.
  • Logging requires road construction to bring in machinery and take away the timber.
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Causes of deforestation (2/3)

Energy development

  • The Bakun Dam in Sarawak generates electricity and is the highest dam in Asia.
  • Several more dams are planned to boost Malaysia’s electricity supply.
  • The dam’s reservoir flooded over  700km^2 of forests and farmland.

Mineral extraction

  • Mining (mainly tin and smelting) is common in Peninsular Malaysia.Raindoresthas been cleared for mining and road construction.
  • Drilling for oil and gas has recently started out in Borneo.

Population pressure

  • In the past, poor urban people were encouraged by the government to move into the countryside from the rapidly growing cities. This is called transmigration.
  • Between 1956 and the 1980’s, about 15 000 hectares of rainforest were felled for the settlers. Many then set up plantations.
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Causes of deforestation (3/3)

Commercial farming

  • Malaysia is the largest supplier of palm oil in the world. During the 1970s, large areas of land were converted to palm oil plantations. Plantation owners receive 10-year tax incentives, so increasing amounts of land have been converted to plantations.

Subsistence farming

  • Tribal people living in the rainforest practise subsistence farming. Traditionally, local communities would hunt and gather food from the forest and grow some food crops in cleared pockets of rainforest. This type of farming is small scale and sustainable.
  • One method of clearing land is ‘slash and burn’. This involves the use of fire to clear the land. The burning creates valuable nutrients that helps plants to grow. These fires can grow out of control, destroying large areas of forest.
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Impacts of Deforestation (1/3)

Soil erosion

  • Removal of soil by wind and rain is called soil erosion. The roots of trees and plants bind the soil together. So deforestation means that soil can easily become loose and erode away.

Loss of biodiversity

  • Biodiversity is a measure of the variety of plants and animals in a particular ecosystem. Rainforests are the most biodiverse ecosystem in the world. Deforestation destroys the ecosystem and the many habitats that exist on the ground and in the trees. This reduces the biodiversity

Contribution to climate change

  • Trees give off moisture by the process of transpiration; deforestation reduces the moisture in the air resulting in a drier climate.
  • The process of evaporation uses up heat and cools the air; if trees are cut down, this cooling ceases and temperatures rise.
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Impacts of Deforestation (2/3)

Economic gain

  • Development of land for mining, farming and energy will lead to jobs both directly (construction, farming) and indirectly (supply and support industries).
  • Companies will pay taxes to the government which can be used to improve public services, such as education and water supply.
  • Improved transport infrastructure - new areas for industrial development and tourism.
  • Products such as oil palm and rubber provide raw materials for processing industries.
  • Hydro-electric power will provide cheap and plentiful energy
  • Minerals such as gold are very valuable.
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Impacts of Deforestation (3/3)

Economic Losses

  • Pollution of water sources and an increasingly dry climate may result in water shortages
  • Fires can cause harmful pollution.  They can burn out of control, destroying vast areas of valuable forest.
  • Rising temperatures could devastate some forms of farming such as growing tea, fruit and flowers.
  • Plants that could bring huge medical benefits and high profits may become extinct.
  • Climate change could have economic costs as people have to adapt to living in a warmer world.
  • The number of tourists attracted by rainforests could decrease.
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