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Defforestation in Malaysia and Haiti Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 13th, 2021

Global environmental politics refers to the study of the relationship between world political forces and environmental changes. Environmental issues largely reflect on the politics of natural resources access, control, and exploitation. It looks at the patterns of domination, social execution of duties, and the amount of pollution that is done on natural resources. It identifies the global structures that produce environmental inequalities and injustice. It also looks at the environmental managerial organizations that continue to uphold structures that assume to be generating solutions to the environmental problems. Political and social classes, race and gender are the prevailing factors that lead to determination of the environmental degradation (Maarten, p. 16).

Rain forests as a natural resource are important not only to the indigenous people but also to the world at large. They are home to roughly 59% of the world’s species making them an important reference for biological and genetic resources. They largely help to maintain the climate by regulating the atmospheric gases and stabilizing rainfall. However as important as they are faced by the threat of diminishing through deforestation. Statistics by the food and agriculture organization of the United Nations (FAO) indicate that deforestation rates increased by 8.5 percent from 2000-2005 (Tucker, p.17). Deforestation can be defined as the conversion of forested areas to non –forested land for other purposes such as pasture, urban use and logging. It can result to arid land or wasted land if the regions that have been deforested are not put into use. Tropical forests have been useful sources of timber, animal products such as meat and hides and they are also of medicinal value since the plants are used to produce drugs that are used to treat fever, fungal infections, burns, gastrointestinal problems, pain, respiratory problems, wound treatment among others (Bazerman, p. 18).

By the 1970s, the rates of deforestation in the developing countries became an issue both locally and internationally due to the effects that were resulting from the cutting down of trees without replacement. The rates of deforestation were attributed to climatic changes as well as human actions. The background of deforestation varies from place to place in the tropics but major reasons are to clear land for agriculture. In southeast Asia, commercial timber is one of the leading factors for the logging of trees (Maarten, p. 30).

Forestry is one of the rapidly growing economic sectors in Malaysia. About 63.6% of Malaysia’s land is forested. Between 1990 and 2005, it lost 5.4% of its forest and woodland habitat to deforestation. It is also privileged to have about 13.9% of species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles that are endemic meaning that they do not exist in any other county. However, these species are at threat due to the diminishing forests which are their habitat. Malaysia is the largest exporter of tropical wood in the world. Sabah and Sarawak are the two major regions that occupy diverse rain forests in the country. There are two types of forest which are the closed forests which are characterized by a high percentage of tree canopy cover, high precipitation and low grass cover. There is also the forest land which is characterized by less canopy cover, lower precipitation and high grass cover. During the 1980s, Malaysia had some of the best policies on forest protection but these were not put into practice. Logging continued as their main income came from the exportation of wood and even at some point they out spaced Indonesia and became the largest wood exporter in the world. The majority of the remaining forests are managed for timber production and each state is entitled to making its forest policies. For the past two decades, no policies were in existence regarding forest management. The Nationals forestry act of 1984 in Malaysia failed to enforce any laws on the control of logging.

In a region like Sabah, the deforestation by the 1990s went deep into the forest living the forests transformed into barren and arid pieces of land. Sabah is one of the regions in Malaysia that produces a vast amount of wood that is exported to other countries. It has a lot of fauna with different plant species. The cutting of trees then slowed in this region and the logging was transferred to Sarawak. This region has a huge amount of forest but it has experienced a lot of logging in the country. An estimated 8% of the land in Sarawak has been designated as a reserve but this has been subject to illegal logging and encroachment by colonists who settle along the logging roads. Logging in Malaysia was originally started by the British colonist in 1930.

The market demand for wood led to drastic cutting down of trees for export that have labeled Malaysia as the country with the highest levels of deforestation in the world. The country experienced massive logging down of trees that were not necessarily replaced. This posed as a great threat to the future of the forests in Malaysia. The peninsular region of Malaysia also experiences a lot of deforestation in a move to get land for agriculture. Most of the primary forests in the region have gone through some forests such as the Tarman Negara remains as the oldest forest in the world. The products were mainly for exports. The production then reduced between 1904 and 1932 due to the increased population that required land for settlement.

In 1923, Malaysia had 60% of forest covering the country but today they have less than 2 percent of forest coverage. The forests are classified into permanent forests and state land forests. The permanent forests have measures that restrict the harvest but the state lands are clear harvested and converted to as agriculture or industrial land. In the 1930s the country laid down forest policies that were meant to protect the forests but they were criticized of blindly following forest policies that were developed by India. They soon came up with the,” interim forest policy for the federation of Malaysia in 1952. This policy was to protect the reserves and also uphold the importance of forests among the population by reinvesting the products of the reserves to cultivate fresh timber. This policy was however not adopted as a National forest policy. The policies in Malaysia include Sarawak’s statement of forestry policy that was approved in 1954. This policy intended to reserve permanently the forests for the benefit of the present and the future inhabitants, to manage the productive forests for sustained revenue, to maximize the use of forest products on land that is to be converted to another use and finally to foster exports to match with the local demand.

Haiti on the other hand is a country in the tropics that experiences a lot of environmental challenges and is affected by massive deforestation. About 85% of the area is mountainous and deforestation in the area has very adverse effects (Tucker 33). The country mainly relies on agriculture for the subsistence of its population. The majority of the Haitians originated from Africa and they were taken to Haiti by the French colonizers who destroyed thousands of acres of virgin forest to plant sugarcane. A lot of wood was cut to fuel the sugar mills. The mahogany woods that were cut were then shipped to Europe to make furniture. When the slaves defeated Napoleon’s army, Haiti became the world’s biggest black republic. In 1804 the great plantations were divided among the slaves (Howard 35). Under French law, the land was shared among a man’s heirs. Haiti’s population grew very fast with the women giving an average of five children each. This reduced the land holdings to less than an acre. The slaves became depressed of their income and they started chopping trees to make and sell charcoal. In 1900, 60% of the land was completely covered by forests but by the 1950s about 25% only of Haiti was covered by forest. The forested area reduced to 10% by 1987 and to 4% by 1994 (Potter 10). The remaining forest is estimated to be around 1.4 percent

Climatic changes in Haiti result to devastating effects leading to inequality between the different societies. Haiti is subject to the effects of the hurricanes that are a great threat to their plantations and also human life. The winds bring down a lot of trees and this results to massive deforestation. The government reacted by paying up for the reforestation. USAID’s agroforestry was the major program for the project but unfortunately, the number of trees planted could not beat the rate at which the trees were cut.

Deforestation in Haiti
Figure 1. Deforestation in Haiti

In 1999, the 15-year Environmental Action Plan was put in place to stop deforestation by developing alternative sources of fuel. The political instability and also the lack of finance have reduced the efforts of the reform plan.

The main cause of the high rate of deforestation in Malaysia is the prevailing increase in population growth, climate, agriculture, logging, fuel, burning, grazing and poor forest management (Potter 11). The population of Malaysia consists of various ethnic groups. They include the Malay, the Chinese and the Indians. During British colonialism in the19th and 20th century, most of the Chinese and the Indians migrated to Malaysia. These groups have influenced Malaysia in several ways mostly in terms of agriculture. By 1963 the Malaysian citizens consisted of 34.3% of Malay, 8.7% of Chinese and 0.9% of Indians (Richards, p. 27). This population has increased and the high population growth demands land to put up houses and to practice agriculture. Many forest areas were cleared to give way for the construction of houses. A good example is the Bukit Antarabangsa forest that has most of its parts cleared for the erection of homes.

Agriculture is another leading cause of deforestation in Malaysia. Most forests have been cleared to enable the farmers to expand the plantations of palm oil. Malaysia is also one of the countries that produce a lot of timber. The exportation of timber from Malaysia improved their economy in the 1980s but as the logging continued it largely affected the economy as the production of timber became strained. About 7 million hectares were logged during this period but this was not going to be available for harvest for the following 20- 50 years (Bazerman, p. 26). The 1990s saw the unsustainable cutting down of trees that depleted the country of the natural resource. The government and the international forces predicted a wood deficit period as a consequence of deforestation. The international forces have considered then issuing of aids as a resource for improving the natural resources. Such donations are linearly related to rates of deforestation where then countries with high rates of deforestation are not rewarded. Fuel is another commodity that has high demand and this propagates the cutting down of the trees to meet the demand. Climate changes may also cause natural disasters that may result in the disappearance of forests (Whitmore, p. 43).

Haiti has also been faced with increased population growth that is demanding for space to live. The increased population also raises the demand for food. Slash and burn is the most common method of clearing forests in Haiti for the creation of land to be used for subsistence farming. The country is also involved in commercial logging of tropical hardwoods such as ironwood, mahogany, logwood and acacia for export. The country also clears the land for the coffee and sugar plantations which are later exported to Europe (Bazerman 34). Lack of proper awareness for the general public is also lacking due to the limited basic education. The people do not know the importance of preserving the forests. Haiti is also faced with a very unstable political environment that makes development and changes very difficult. Fuel is also an important resource in this area and the people are forced to cut down the trees in search of cheap fuel such as charcoal. The US oil embargo in the late 1990s that blocked the shipment of oil to Haiti led to massive deforestation as the Haitians searched for the fuel (Labys 30).

This rate of deforestation has had various consequences in the country such as the occurrence of soil erosion. This has resulted in the major landslides that occur in Malaysia since the soil is left bare after the cutting down of trees. During the rainy season, the soil flows rapidly with the rainwater causing a great threat to the lives of many. Another effect is the loss of habitat for wild animals (Potter 18). These animals are trained to find other habitats as deforestation commences. This results in the death of such animals since they have no place to live or even food to eat. This has an overall effect on animal extinction in a country like Malaysia. Some plant species are also extinct as the cutting down of plantations progresses. Malaysia is dominated by oil palm plantations.

Oil palm plantations and logged-over forest in Malaysian Borneo
Figure 2. Oil palm plantations and logged-over forest in Malaysian Borneo

The logging of trees for the plantation of palm oil plantations has affected the biodiversity as some plants are rendered extinct. The destruction of the ecosystems affects the services that are offered by the species such as prevention of soil erosion, flood control, water treatment, fisheries protection and also pollination. The flogging of trees has also affected the native people such as the Penan people. These are nomads and semi-nomads and they have been involved in the fight against forest destruction (Bazerman, p. 46). They try to set up roadblocks to stop the felling of the trees but this has not bared a lot of fruit. Their protests were brutally put down by the Malaysian government which denied the media access to the region until the forest inhabitants were cleared and the unrest was solved (Labys, p. 33). The ruthless attack on the Penan attracted international attention to the issues related to the logging of the Borneo forest but this did not have a great influence on the government since the logging continued over the following years. The Malaysian government seemed to concentrate more on development rather than the conservation of the forests.

The worst effect of deforestation in Haiti is soil erosion which has lead to the acceleration of droughts within the region. Since the region is mountainous, the heavy rains easily wash away the soil along the slopes leaving the area with bedrock and very poor soil. In this case, it is very difficult for the indigenous people to involve themselves with any meaningful agriculture to provide food (Labys, p. 42). Haiti has a lot of rain forests that act as habitats for a great number of plant and animal species. Deforestation in such an area endangers then the life of these species the Haitians of the Caribbean are affected in their fishing industry due to the soil that lows into the water and thus killing fish. The erosion results in the deposit of sediments that feel the streams, rivers and lakes. This then flows into the ocean affecting the marine life and the Haitians fishing industry (Whitmore, p. 28). The rate at which the water flows from the slopes in the sediment-filled solids is very high and this gives rise to very serious floods. The slash and burn nature of the Haitians affects the quality of the soils due to the reduction of the nutrients and living organisms in the soil. The soils are also overused due to the high population that competes for the scarce land to cultivate food.

Deforestation has increased the poverty levels of the Haitians due to a lack of sustainable sources of income. The output for the firms also becomes low due to a lack of water for irrigation resulting in phases of hunger. Health hazards also come along with other consequences of deforestation. Deforestation comes with an increase in tropical diseases including horrible hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola and Lassa fever (Potter, p. 22). As the original hosts of disease pathogens release them during the destruction of forests, this can result in disease out breaks among humans. The inhabitants of the rain forests are also mosquito-infested due to the flooding. The mosquito breeding is also due to the stagnant water and artificial pools of water like dams and ditches created by the tractors. This then gives rise to diseases such as malaria and other water-borne diseases such as cholera (Vajpeyi, p. 21). The inhabitants are at great risk of malaria since it turns out to be drug-resistant due to the mode of transmission by the parasites. Many of the diseases that emerge in these regions are associated with the contact of the pathogens as they are released during the land alteration.

The rain forest vegetation helps to reserve the carbon in the tropics. When the trees are cut and the vegetation burnt, the carbon is released into the atmosphere. Only when a tree is growing can it remove carbon from the atmosphere over a given period. The decaying plants and burnt wood releases much of the stored carbon into the atmosphere. Even though nature has its way of balancing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it usually takes time to adjust (Whitmore, p. 31). This, therefore, means that if the rate at which the carbon is being released is higher than the rate at which nature balances the carbon, then there are effects that must follow. The slow balancing of the atmospheric gases causes the temperature of the planet to raise resulting in the breakdown of the ozone layer and causing global warming. This is one of the major factors contributing to the greenhouse effect. Tropical deforestation has accounted for about 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (Richards, p. 45). Deforestation also has hydrologic effects. The trees extract the underground water through their roots and release it into the atmosphere. When the trees are cut the water is no longer released from the soil and this results in to dry climate and also retention of the underground water.

Looking at the situation in both regions, urgent measures need to be put in place to reduce the adverse effects of deforestation. One of the most effective measures is the replanting of trees to replace the ones that have been cut down. In a country like Haiti, there are no structured government programs for re-planting trees (Potter, p. 23). Such programs will help to provide income for the indigenous people and also reduce the effects of deforestation. The governments in these countries need to seek alternative energy sources since the burning of charcoal will only accelerate the felling of trees. There need to be educative programs on other sources of fuel such as kerosene and also the biogas that is produced from the waste manure. There are other technological developments in harnessing solar energy that can be used in solar ovens.

The international bodies should increase their foreign aid to countries such as Haiti to enable them to get involved in profitable agriculture. Their economy is depressed and the inhabitants struggle to survive on subsistence farming (Richards, p. 50). The foreign aids may be in the form of loans education or even humanitarian aid. The education programs should be harnessed with methods of farming that would lead to increased output in the farms.

In Malaysia, such education programs will help the individuals understand the extent of the remaining forests, their wood and its value their ecology, and the management requirements. The government should also put forward favorable policies that will lead to forest resources and also the allocation of land without necessarily affecting the forests. Such policies to save the forests should involve the local people since they are the ones involved in the felling of trees. From their involvement in the forest-related issues, they will get a better understanding that the initiatives are being implemented for their benefit (Potter, p. 37).

In conclusion, as the world continues to seek cheap sources of fuel, there is a lot of pressure on the remaining forests. As indicated by the study deforestation leads to impacts on the forest structure, biodiversity, hydrology and also the climate

Deforestation deprives us of the availability of natural resources such as timber, medicinal plants, nuts and fruits and games. The population in both countries continues to largely rely on wood for fuel. This calls for urgent managerial measures that will control the cutting down of trees since an annual consumption of forests for fuel would cost the countries more forest reserves. The countries also need to conduct research that would come up with new technologies and also alternative sources of energy for domestic use.

The political and socio-economic environments of such countries have remained unstable making it very difficult to sustain resource management and to attract foreign investment and projects (Labys, p. 48). Millions of dollars have been spent by donor aids but this has not produced a lasting solution. There need to be local and international plans the can be directed towards solving the issues of deforestation in countries such as Malaysia and Haiti. This is because deforestation effects do not only affect the inhabitants of a particular country but also spill the effects to the outside world such as global warming. Deforestation puts the life of the people at risk, gambles with the stability of the climate and undermines the important services of biological diversity.

There is a need for conservation measures, sustainable development and effective environmental management. By managing the rates of logging in the areas, the rate of deforestation will reduce giving rise to new forests (Whitmore, p. 66). The inhabitants of the rainforests have concentrated on the positive sides of deforestation such as the economic development resulting from the exportation of wood, development of technology and proving resources for the world. They do not take into account the many negative consequences of deforestation. It is important to examine the effects of deforestation to improve future forests conservation.

Works cited

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