Southeast Asia’s tropical forests are being cleared
at a rate far faster than once believed, threatening the livelihoods of local people, and rapidly destroying the habitat of orangutans, rhinos, elephants, and tigers, according to the recent report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). If estimates are correct, only 2 percent of Sumatra and Borneo’s rainforests will be left by 2022.
The report cites illegal logging as a primary cause of deforestation, and notes the growing concern of Asian officials, who are advocating for Western industries and consumers to stop purchasing smuggled timber. “We are appealing today to the conscience of the whole world: do not buy uncertified wood,” said Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesia’s environment minister.
Asia also faces the connected challenge of forest conflict. Often instigated by fierce competition for forest resources among the political elite, military officials, local communities, and others, forest conflict has affected millions in Southeast Asia, particularly those who rely on forest land as their sole source of income.