Eco-crimes in Sarawak

When I first visited Sarawak in 1990, the Malaysian state was cutting 11 million cubic meters of timber each year--an astonishing figure.  As one can see in this shocking video, the Rajang River ran blood-red with silt and thick with abandoned timber.

  In October 2010, the Rajang River had a 50-kilometer-long logjam (photo by Hornbill Unleashed)

In October 2010, the Rajang River had a 50-kilometer-long logjam (photo by Hornbill Unleashed)

The legacy of Sarawak's relentless forest exploitation is highlighted in a compelling piece by Rhett Butler at Mongabay.com.  Butler is one of ALERT's media advisors.

Informed observers point the finger of blame directly at embattled Chief Forestry Minister Taib Mahmud, who along with his political cronies has profited hugely at the expense of Sarawak's forests.  

The sister-in-law of Gordon Brown, the former British Prime Minister, has called Taib "one of the worst environmental criminals on the planet."

In 2011, Mahmud asserted that 70 percent of Sarawak's forests were intact.  The Bruno Manser Fund, a conservation and indigenous-rights group that focuses on Sarawak, says the actual figure is closer to 11 percent.

It is no exaggeration to say that, in a more enlightened political context, Mahmud would almost certainly find himself facing serious charges for high crimes against the environment.

-Bill Laurance