New report slams Malaysian oil palm industry
By Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), a member of Friends of the Earth International in collaboration with Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Friends of the Earth Netherlands, Friends of the Earth Europe and Friends of the Earth International has released a 70-page long report on the adverse impacts of the expansion of oil palm plantations in Sarawak on Oct 7, 2008.
Malaysian Palm Oil – Green Gold or Green Wash, A commentary on the sustainability claims of Malaysia’s palm oil lobby, with a special focus on the state of Sarawak seeks to question the sustainability claims that have often been made by the Malaysian palm oil lobby. Earlier this year, the British advertising watchdog has already ruled that the Malaysian palm oil advertisement claiming that the oil is sustainable was misleading the public.
The scale of the sustainability challenges in Malaysia’s palm oil industry is significant. Sarawak has licensed hundreds of companies to more than double the State’s oil palm acreage from 2007 levels to 1.3 million hectares by 2010.
SAM estimates that at least 2.8 million hectares of land in Sarawak have been slated for the cultivation of fast-growing timber species and oil palm. We have always maintained that this expansion does in actual fact involve deforestation and will certainly exacerbate existing native customary rights (NCR) violations of the Sarawak natives. Land rights conflicts in this case then will be a continuation from those caused by logging operations in the state.
This new report then primarily focuses on the related challenges that the Malaysian palm oil industry must confront vis-à-vis its sustainability claims:
1.In Sarawak, plantation companies regularly practise open burning to
clear land for planting, even on peat soils, contributing to regional air
pollution (haze) and to the faster release of greenhouse gases into the
2.Oil palm plantations are indeed being expanded at the expense of tropical forests, contrary to claims by the Malaysian palm oil lobby. In Sarawak in particular, the advent of plantations is also linked to the depletion of its timber resources, despite the claims that the state has a sustainable forestry policy in place.
3.Oil palm plantations will worsen land rights violations of the Sarawak natives. Many of the promises made in the past to protect such rights remain largely unfulfilled. Virgin forests promised to the Penan communities of Sarawak have in fact not materialised.
4.Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) in Sarawak continue to exclude mandatory public participation.
5.The 'carbon debt' of palm oil is huge when the plantation is developed
on peat soils and/or at the expense of forests, making it an environmentally questionable source of biofuels.
S.M. Mohamed Idris,
President Sahabat Alam Malaysia
(8 / 10 October 2008)
Link to executive summary of the report
Link to the full text of the report