Project March 4, 2020

Deforestation in Malaysia: Gaps and Drivers



The Malaysian federal government commits to keeping more than half of the country's land forested. But entire forests, including permanent reserves, continued to be logged or degraded. While oil palm plantations bear the brunt of the blame for deforestation in Malaysia, this project identifies more fundamental drivers.

First, legislative power and management of forests rests not with the federal government but with state authorities who rely on forests as economic resources. Second, forest cover data is often outdated and fails to distinguish forests from plantations, leading to flawed conservation policies and management strategies. In short, the dichotomy of state and federal powers and chaotic approach and lack of transparency to land use has led to the denuding of forests in Malaysia. This project scrutinizes unsustainable forest use and deforestation in Malaysia and investigates missing pieces in the effort to curb deforestation. Combining text, photos, and podcasts, this project examines how states support or defy federal policies on forest management, what the drivers of deforestation are, and what key information is missing. The journalists on this project will engage stakeholders along the deforestation supply chain to have their voices heard. We aim to focus on a key conservation area: the Central Forest Spine, a planned network of Peninsular Malaysia's environmentally sensitive areas.

Photo credit: Sasya Holdings