Tom White

Freelance Visual Journalist, Educator and Artist
   
Indigenous Land Rights in Sarawak
Location: Singapore
Nationality: British
Biography: I grew up in Bradford, West Yorkshire in the north of England and am currently based in Singapore where I work as a freelance photographer, educator and curator. My work has been published and exhibited internationally. I currently hold a part... MORE
Public Story
Indigenous Land Rights in Sarawak
Copyright Tom White 2022
Updated Jun 2020
Location Sarawak
Topics Black and White, Documentary, Editorial, Environment, Forest, Globalization, Photography, Photojournalism, Water, Workers Rights

Sarawak is the largest of thirteen states that make up Malaysia and is situated on the island of Borneo, which is shared between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei and contains some of the oldest tropical rainforest in the world.


Agriculture, logging, mining and oil and gas extraction dominate Borneo's economy. Plans for multiple hydro-electric projects in Sarawak have drawn controversy, as have the much greater publicised issues of palm oil production and logging, both drivers of deforestation.


Malaysia is the second largest producer of Palm oil after Indonesia. According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, as of December 2012, palm oil plantation accounted for a total land use of 51,000 km2 in Malaysia. It makes up 77% of agricultural land or about 15% of total land area in Malaysia. Criticism of the Palm oil industry has focused on deforestation, monoculture farming practices and labour exploitation.


Logging, along with Palm oil plantations, are a highly visible cause of environmental damage. Crude logging techniques, illegal cutting, construction of logging roads and timber camps all contribute to a depreciation of ecosystems and destruction of habitat upon which local indigenous people and wildlife depend.


The proposed Baram dam project was cancelled in mid 2015 by Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem. With the death of Adenan Satem in early 2017, Sarawak’s indigenous community hopes the new Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Openg will not re-instate the dam’s construction. About 20,000 people in 30 villages would lose their homes or lands to the flooding, if the dam was to be built.


Save Rivers, a conservation group opposed to the dam has proposed smaller-scale hydroelectric and solar projects as an alternative to large scale mega dam projects.

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