Palm Oil and its Ecological Impact

Oil palm is grown as an industrial plantation crop, often (especially in Indonesia) on newly cleared rainforest or peat-swamp forests, rather than on already degraded land or disused agricultural land. Indonesia and Malaysia Palm Oil Companies have destroyed enormous tracts of tropical rainforest which contain the world’s longest lists of threatened wildlife. Of the more than 400 land mammal species of Indonesia, 15 are critically endangered and another 125 threatened. Of Malaysia’s nearly 300 land mammal species, 6 are critically endangered and 41 threatened.

The numbers of threatened species climb higher when terrestrial reptiles, amphibians, birds, insects, spiders, flowering plants, non-flowering plants and trees are included and climbs to . There are over 300,000 species which live in Indonesia & Malaysia. Moreover, certain animals, such as the orangutan, sun bear, Sumatra tiger, pygmy elephant and others, are only found in these countries; when their rainforest habitat vanishes, so will they.

As well as habitat destruction there is also a huge problem with land clearing methods such as ‘slash & burn’. “The annual haze pollution has affected life in Southeast Asia despite the fact that national laws and corporations’ practices restricting the use of fire in clearing lands. The recurring haze blankets Southeast countries in toxic fumes, which disrupted airline schedules, caused school closures, and has increased haze-related ill health (Padfield et al., 2016).

Trans-boundary haze is commonly caused by the burning of rainforests and peatlands to make way for agriculture production. In the case of Southeast Asia, at the heart of this haze crisis is the oil palm plantation expansion. Plantation companies are under intense public scrutiny because the burning of lands occurs in agricultural estates where they manage (Gaveau et al., 2017). There are requests to closely monitor multinational companies’ activities in order to prevent rainforests from deforestation and degradation. However, the growing demand from an ever-increasing world population has driven oil palm industries to continue landscape clearance and transformation in such areas (Padfield et al., 2016) –

Since Palm Oil is the biggest industry in Indonesia bringing in millions of dollars each year it seems inevitable that the government will never really protect the rainforests no matter what they claim. In A 2021 report by Greenpeace and technology consultancy TheTreeMapidentified  at least 600 plantation companies operating illegally inside forest areas. Yet these only accounted for half of the illegal plantations. In July 2023 “The Indonesian government justified a sweeping amnesty for millions of hectares of oil palm plantations established illegally in forest areas, saying there are so many of them that it simply has no other option than to legalize them.

” !!!   “The amnesty scheme, introduced in 2020, gives the operators of these illegal plantations a grace period of three years to obtain the proper permits, including the official rezoning of their operational area to non-forest area, and to pay the requisite fines, allowing them to resume their operations.” What more is there to say?

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