Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: After analysing satellite images combined with existing data and field surveys, Wetlands International and Sarvision – Dutch remote sensing institute, observed that Malaysia – world’s second largest palm oil producer, is destroying large areas of carbon-rich peatswamp forests to expand plantations.
According to their report, almost 353,000 hectares (883,000 acres) of species-rich, peatswamp forests were opened up largely for palm oil production during 2005-2010. “In just 5 years time, almost 10 percent of all Sarawak’s forests and 33 percent of the peatswamp forests have been cleared. Of this, 65 percent was for palm oil conversion,” said the report, which cited a lack of verifiable government figures on land use in relation to soil type or deforestation.
The new studies conclude that 20 percent of all Malaysian palm oil is produced on drained peatlands. For Sarawak, this is even 44 percent. For new plantations, the percentage on forested peatswamps is even higher.
Palm oil firms in Malaysia and Indonesia are under increasing pressure by major Western buyers to halt expansion through forest clearance.
But India and China remain top buyers of the oil for cooking, biscuits, cosmetics and biofuels. Malaysia produces about 45 percent of the world’s palm oil.
Wetlands International and Sarvision estimated that the 510,000 ha of peatlands in Malaysia drained for palm oil production led to the release of 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
The group called for an immediate halt to peatland clearance and an end to incentives for biofuels in the European .