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Deforestation and forest degradation: Apportioning blame

Rates of deforestation are notoriously difficult to calculate on a comparative basis, largely because of different definitions of 'forest' and methods of categorizing vegetation regrowth. In Table 5.3, an attempt has been made to compare earlier forest cover (estimates) with present forest area. Such figures are not available for all countries, and periods studied also vary. From these data, annual rates of deforestation may be calculated, but different sources reach widely divergent estimates; for example, rates for the Philippines for the early 1980s range from 700 000 to 900 000 hectares per year (Ooi, 1987) while the figures for Vietnam range from 100 000 to 380 000 hectares per year (Collins, Sayer and Whitmore, 1991; Fearnside, 1990; Rao, 1990a).

TABLE 5.3 Estimated Declines in Area under Forest and Present Forest Area in South-East Asia, Different Years (million hectares)

Country Year Decline in Area Present Forest Area
Insular South-East Asia      
Indonesiaa 1982 119.1  
  1990 108.6  
Malaysiab 1979 21.2  
  1989 18.5  
Philippinesc 1979 8.2  
  1989 6.5  
Continental South-East Asia      
Myanmar 1989 37.3 'Intact forest'
      1980 - 31.1
Thailande 1978 17.5  
  1989 14.3  
Laos 1989 11.7 'Intact forest'
      1991 - 6.8d
Vietnam 1982f 7.8 Only 2 million hectares are productive
  1989g 9.3 1991-5.7d
Cambodiah 1970 13.0  
  1989 7.5  

a FAO/GOI (1990).
b Thang (1990).
c Jensen (1987).
d Collins, Sayer and Whitmore (1991).
e Royal Forest Department, Thailand.
f UNDP (1986).
g Vietnamese government.
h Midgley (1989).

Preliminary figures released by the FAO's Forest Resources Assessment 1990 project indicate a rate of deforestation for 1986-90 which is more than double that for 1976-80, with a total of over 2 million hectares of land deforested per year over the second half of the 1980s in insular South-East Asia and 1.4 million in continental South-East Asia (FAO, 1990) (Table 5.4). The FAO's earlier figures for other parts of the world (such as the Amazon basin) have been criticized as conservative and overestimations of remaining forest cover. It is probable that with the better resolution of remotely sensed imagery now available, a more precise differentiation between 'forest' and 'non-forest' may soon be achieved. While current estimates of total forest are thus more correct, comparative rates of loss from a less accurate earlier base may be exaggerated.

The figure for the second half of the 1980s in insular South-East Asia is considerably higher than the overall 10-year average, apparently showing continuously increasing forest loss. Studies in Indonesia reveal rates of 937 000 hectares per year from 1982 to 1990, excluding the 1982-3 fire in East Kalimantan (FAO/GOI, 1990). If these are correct (and they are supported by World Bank (1990a) estimates), they still account for less than half of the total deforestation reported by the FAO for the region in 1986 - 90. Of the four countries listed by the FAO, oil-rich Brunei contributes little to total deforestation, felling timber for local use only. Thang (1990) suggests rates for Malaysia of 275 000 hectares per year for 1979-89. It is likely that these have increased since then, particularly in Sarawak, with continued expansion of log production and the opening up of the country through timber roads. The World Resources Institute (WRI, 1990) proposes a figure of 143 000 hectares per year for the Philippines in 1981-8, which is reasonable, given the decline in the availability of timber except in such islands as Palawan.

TABLE 5.4 Estimated Annual Deforestation Rates in South-East Asia, 1976-1980, 1981-1990and 1986 1990

Region 1976 80 1981-90 1986-90
Insular South-East Asia 888 000 1 600 000 2 018 000
Continental South-East Asia 633 000 1 400 000 1 384 000
Total 1 521 000 3 000 000 3 403 000

Sources: FAO (1987); Rao (1989, 1990b).

It is also possible that rates for Indonesia, undoubtedly the 'forest giant' of the region, are even higher than previously reported. A country-by-country breakdown of FAO figures would throw more light on these early 1990s estimates. Within Indonesia, deforestation is greatest in Sumatra at 367 700 hectares per year (Table 5.5). This island has been the major recipient of transmigrant settlers; although not all have been located in forested sites, this may help to explain the rapid decline in tree cover. Laumonier's detailed vegetation maps of Sumatra (Laumonier, 1983; Laumonier, Purnadjaja and Setiabudhi, 1986/7) allow a more accurate appraisal of forest conditions than is possible for other regions, which lack such an inventory. Rates of deforestation must also be related to the total available forest area; in Indonesia the current rate, although high, represents only 0.8 per cent of the total area (WRI, 1990).

The FAO (Rag, 1989: 6) distinguishes between deforestation and forest degradation as follows: 'Deforestation . . . refers to the transfer of forest land to non-forest uses and includes all land where the forest cover has been stripped and the land converted to such uses as: permanent cultivation, shifting cultivation, human settlements, mining, building of dams, etc.' Degradation, on the other hand, 'refers to a reduction in the extent and quality of the forest cover due to such factors as: indiscriminate logging; inappropriate roadmaking methods; forest fires, etc.'

It is notable that shifting cultivation is included as a cause of deforestation, although traditional swiddening does not entail permanent conversion but only temporary use of forest land. The perception that logging in general brings little disturbance to forests (it is only 'indiscriminate logging' which is seen to lead to degradation) while shifting cultivation constitutes a major cause of deforestation (elevated to the major cause by a number of national forest departments) has led to ideological disagreement between the FAO and environmental groups as represented by the Ecologist. The former is seen to be supporting commercial/logging interests in opposition to the interests of indigenous peoples. Some clarification is necessary, as there is no doubt that land-seeking 'shifting cultivators' who move into newly opened forests along logging roads will often bring about permanent conversion of these areas. Forest destruction is seen by many as a 2-stage process, with logging almost inevitably followed by settlement and, eventually, complete removal of the tree cover(Kummer, 1990a).

TABLE 5.5 Estimated Rate of Deforestation by Major Area, Indonesia, 1982-1990 (thousand hectares per year)

Area Annual Rate
Sumatra 367.7
excluding 1982/3 fire 233.2
including fire 377.7
Sulawesi 117.5
Maluku 24.3
Irian Jaya 163.7
Nusa Tenggara and Timor Timur 14.1
Outer Islands  
excluding fire 920.5
including fire 1 298.2
Bali 0.4
Java 16.1
excluding Kalimantan fire 937.0
including fire 1 314.7

Source: FAO/GOI (1990).

Confrontational positions over the respective roles of shifting cultivators and loggers in forest destruction have been adopted in Sarawak since the late 1980s (Pure, 1990; Sahabat Alam Malaysia, 1990). A study for the Worldwide Fund for Nature, while noting a generally sympathetic view towards traditional shifting cultivation by conservationists, also observed that 'traditional' systems have been changing: 'There is evidence that such new factors as increased road access and the availability of motor vehicles and chainsaws are turning modern shifting cultivation into a greater threat to the forest than was previously the case' (Kavanagh, Rahim and Hails, 1989: 36, quoting a study by Marajan and Dimin, 1989).

The Marajan and Dimin study, based on 1985 Landsat imagery subsequently validated on the ground, found 28 per cent of Sarawak to be affected by shifting cultivation. The authors concluded that, because of modern technology, shifting cultivation is no longer practiced in traditional fashion, and that as a result large areas of primary forest are being lost. This view is rather extreme, particularly the purported attack on the primary forests, as in much of Sarawak, especially the more accessible western divisions, long-worked secondary forests are characteristic of the area. Cramb (1989) points out that in these western divisions, shifting cultivation, while still a component of household labour output, has given way to cash crops such as rubber or pepper and is stable or declining in terms of land used. A study carried out under the auspices of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTC, 1990) does, however, note high rates of encroachment of up to 50 000 hectares per year, mainly into logged-over forests on state land. The authors conclude: 'Although shifting cultivation is probably a diminishing factor in the long run, its persistence at rates similar to these must be taken into account' (ITTC, 1990: 29).

Similar views on the impact of chain-saws in 'modernizing' shifting cultivation have been presented for East Kalimantan by Kartawinata and Vayda (1984), Kartawinata et al. (1984) and later by Inoue and Lahjie (1990). The Kalimantan studies show that longfallow, forest-maintaining practices appear now to be the norm only among remote farmers. As those farmers move to more accessible areas, they reduce fallow periods and buy or hire chain-saws to make larger clearings for cash crops; the size of such clearings and the reduced fallow may impede forest regeneration. While these findings appear to contradict those of Cramb in Sarawak, the East Kalimantan situation may represent an earlier stage of the agricultural intensification now more characteristic of parts of East Malaysia.

Kartawinata and Vayda also reached the conclusion, shared by many writers, that the timber companies caused great damage to the forests, with about 50 per cent of the residual trees being scarred by mechanical logging and the resultant soil compaction, erosion and invasion by secondary species making dipterocarp regeneration very difficult (Kartawinata and Vayda, 1984; see also Hamzah, 1978; Marsono, 1980; Tinal and Palenewen, 1978). Like the 'modem' shifting cultivators mentioned above, timber companies also make large gaps in the forest, in the form of roads, camps and log yards; such gaps amount to deforestation. Even selective logging leaves much larger gaps than would occur naturally, and the gaps are likely to be colonized by secondary species only.

For the Philippines, Bautista (1990) argued that it is easy to single out 'voiceless and cloutless' shifting cultivators and upland migrant-settlers as being largely to blame for forest destruction when most of the lands they occupy have previously been under timber concessions and heavily logged. He suggests that their 'culpability', if it may be termed as such, lies in their sheer presence in the area, placing constraints on regeneration. Both in the Philippines and in Thailand, where deforestation in the uplands has led to ecological disasters in adjacent lowlands, ethnic conflict has at times erupted over upland activities (Kaye, 1990)

The incidence of forest invasion by settlers has been related positively to population pressure and negatively to availability of suitable land elsewhere. The Indonesian FAO study has suggested a strong direct correlation between deforestation and population density, and an inverse relationship with agricultural productivity and the growth of real income (FAO/GOI, 1990: Part 1).

Kummer, on the other hand, using data from the Philippines with deforestation as the dependent variable, came to the conclusion that dominance by the elite over the forest resource, with concomitant lack of control by government, was responsible for the demise of the primary forest. There was a positive relationship between deforestation and changes in agricultural area and road networks, but population increase was not the 'driving force' of deforestation. Kummer (1990a: 208) concluded that 'the rapid rates of deforestation observed in e.g., Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil, are not the result of population pressure but, rather, reflect macro level decisions made by government officials ... increased emphasis should be placed on the socio-economic context in which deforestation takes place'.

Managing the forest: The role of government in land-use planning

Examination of the role of national (or, in the case of Malaysia, state) governments in managing the forests of South-East Asia reveals a number of similarities. 'Forest areas' are universally under government jurisdiction. Using the examples of Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, Poffenberger (1990a, 1990b) has noted the growing authority of the state since the initial establishment of forest services during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Management policies initiated during colonial times have been continued in the modern era, with forest bureaucracies inevitably clashing with indigenous forest communities, and governments aiming primarily to siphon off the spoils of the recent decades of increased exploitation. While occupying a large proportion of the total land mass (74 per cent of Indonesia), or the total uplands (all areas in the Philippines above 18 per cent slope), 'forests' are likely to include sizeable stretches which are unwooded, and substantial land in various stages of regrowth after being farmed by shifting cultivators. Permanent cash cropping by smallholders characterizes other areas. It is estimated that 65 per cent of public forest lands in the Philippines consists of grasslands and degraded farmlands (Borlagdan, 1990).

A forest land-use classification will usually contain at least three categories: protection (hydrological), conservation (ecological) and production. There may also be areas on forestry maps specifically earmarked for permanent conversion to agriculture, mines, dams or settlements, sometimes in belated recognition of a conversion which has long since occurred. While protected and conservation areas are supposed to be reserved, the production forests are either leased out for logging to private concessionaires or, in the case of the socialist states, given out for working by various kinds of state-controlled production enterprises. In Vietnam, there is a range of such ventures, depending on the type of forest, organized at national, provincial and village level (Bud Xuan Yen, 1990). Laos has a similar system, with provincial authorities permitted to make profits from logging, sometimes through the use of Thai firms. Forestry has been dominant in the Laotian economy, with 80 per cent of exports in much of the 1980s in the form of unprocessed logs (Worner, 1990). In response to increasing pressure from Thai interests to be allowed access to forests following the logging ban in Thailand, Laos has instituted a tax on raw-log exports and is attempting to improve both its own forest-management capabilities and wood-processing facilities, inviting Thai capital to invest in the latter (Pragtong and Thomas, 1990). Due to the lack of basic infrastructure in Laos, Thai interest has not extended much beyond basic sawmilling (Bangkok Post, 4 April 1991).

In Cambodia, on the other hand, where shortages of trained forestry personnel are extreme and security is still a problem, well-organized systems are lacking and most production has been local and small-scale. This will change quickly if conditions improve in border areas, as Thai logging interests are poised to exploit the resource (Bangkok Post, 20 June 1990, 26 July 1990; Collins, Sayer and Whitmore, 1991). Myanmar has introduced a mixed strategy; from 1989, the non-teak forests have been opened to private concessionaires. However, in areas along the Thai border, 48 concessions have been given out to Thai firms, largely in teak forests.

Some territories, such as Peninsular Malaysia and later the Philippines, have had detailed forest inventories completed, so that there is reasonably accurate information on the state of the resource. In other countries, inventories are either under way (in Indonesia and Laos) or restricted to particular districts (in Myanmar), so that data are at present more limited. In the Philippines, a World Bank (1989b) survey has also commissioned a detailed and ground-truthed land-use study utilizing SPOT imagery. The study has provided further information essential for the proper management and planning of the forests.

There is little or no demarcation of reserved areas on the ground in most countries of the region, so that incursions by both loggers and small settlers are common. A plethora of regulations usually exist (on paper) in an attempt to control logging and to force those in charge of production to adopt what should be systems of sustainable management. Such controls have failed in most cases, partly because of a universal shortage of forestry personnel to police them. In the capitalist states, the failure is seen to stem from lack of political will or inability to stand up to powerful interests and lobby groups. However, the socialist nations have fared no better in terms of sustainable forestry, as Laos and Vietnam now candidly admit (Bud Xuan Yen, 1990; Lao PDR, 1989a, 1989b).

The head of the Laotian delegation to an Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission meeting stated that almost all of Laos' forests were being used unsustainably, as a result of the activities of both shifting cultivators and loggers. He noted that while according to existing regulations, logged areas should remain under forest and subsequent harvests be possible, 'in practice post-logging surveys are inadequate, there is little information on the value of residual stands and few measures to protect them. Post-logging silvicultural treatments are not applied and logged areas are often encroached upon by shifting cultivators' (Inthavong, 1990: 2).

The dual functions of the Vietnam Ministry of Forestry-production and management-have meant a concentration on the former, with little attention to the latter. The same applies to forests under provincial or village control:

Because of lack of clarity for forest management at various levels of organisation, many provinces and districts disregard important tending requirements and pay no attention at all to the capacity of forests to regenerate. At the same time high targets have been set to increase forest production for marketing or to exchange with other goods or to build up local funding resources (Bud Xuan Yen, 1990: 3).

While a number of parks and reserves have been proclaimed, the lack of resources and management experience retards their development, and encroachment by settlers and uncontrolled hunting threaten their viability (Collins, Sayer and Whitmore, 1991).


In Indonesia, management is based on an agreed forest land-use classification (Tata Guna Hutan Kesepakatan, TGHK) which distinguishes protected forest, limited and general production forest and conversion forest, in addition to smaller areas for parks and reserves. The boundary between the production and conversion forest is a controversial one, based on rates of tree stocking. Within the conversion forest, clear felling is allowed, and such activities as transmigration settlements are supposed to be located on contiguous blocks, after the area has been logged. This does not always happen, as the lack of suitable sites sometimes necessitates the 'swapping' of parcels of land from within the designated production area (Potter, 1990).

Production forest is worked by concessionaires on a 'selection felling' basis, later revised to 'selection felling and planting', as some replanting is now compulsory. Theoretically, a 35-year cutting cycle is the aim, but it is now admitted that sufficient medium-size trees are unlikely to be available on the concessions to ensure this second cut (FAO/GOI, 1990). Concessions (of which there were 575 in 1990) are for 20 years, with renewal if regulations are observed. Despite closer policing of the regulations with cancellation of some leases and fining of defaulting concessionaires, it has been claimed that not more than 4 per cent of concession holders could be classified as responsible managers of the forest (Kompas, 23 January 1990). Between 1979 and 1985, Indonesia gradually introduced a total ban on raw-log exports, insisting that concessionaires construct plywood plants and sawmills. This was subsequently achieved, and Indonesia has risen to the position of leading exporter of tropical plywood. In the process, much consolidation of timber interests has occurred, with a few large cartels now controlling both logging and processing. These cartels, and the political forces they represent, challenge attempts at reform of their activities by the forest service (Potter, 1991).

There is still considerable ignorance about the location of the best areas of timber. It has been suggested that proper land-use planning needs this information base, in order to reduce settler incursions into protection forests, the best production forests and also national parks. Such areas should be clearly demarcated, and certain of the production forests should be more intensively worked to secure the same levels of production from a smaller coupe, thus making it possible to release other land, preferably that used for treecrops, for settlement. At the same time, some areas of forest may be returned to community control, with community-operated forest 'buffer zones' surrounding important protected areas. Collection activities, especially for fuelwood, fruit and rattans would be permitted in such zones (IIED/GOI, 1985).

The series of studies published by the British Regional Physical Planning Project for Transmigration (RePPProT) team employed detailed analyses of the physical resources to identify land systems suitable for tree-crop-based settlement (RePPProT, 1985, 1987a, 1987b). In these reports, and in that by Ross (1984), it was presumed that agriculture would take precedence over forest; the International Institute of Economic Development/Government of Indonesia (IIED/GOI) study, on the other hand, took the view that much more forest should be retained, but used as a source of income for communities in its midst. However, in her review for the World Bank, Davis argued that 'the question is not whether forested land will be converted to agriculture but whether it will be done by design or by chance' (World Bank, 1990a: 41). She suggested granting shifting cultivators secure tenure for up to 20 hectares of land per family, in which they could be encouraged to develop agroforestry schemes. It was also recommended that the comparative advantages of particular provinces with regard to agriculture or forestry should be recognized: East Kalimantan has the best forests but poor soils, so settlers should be directed elsewhere: Sumatra has an advantage in tree crops and could absorb more settlers engaged in that form of production.


Like Indonesia, Peninsular Malaysia has also considered the relative merits of forestry and agriculture, with agriculture seen as the more important. Large areas have been cleared for tree-crop settlement schemes during the 1970s and 1980s, following a preliminary land-capability classification. Much of the forest land originally cleared consisted of the best lowland dipterocarp, leaving the bulk of what was to become the Permanent Forest Estate (PFE) defined by the National Forestry Policy of 1978-in hill dipterocarp. This caused some problems, as most research had been conducted in lowland forests, and the Malayan Uniform System of logging was based on these areas (Appanah and Salleh, 1991; Johari, 1982; Whitmore, 1984). That system consisted of removing the mature crop in one single felling of all trees to 45 centimetres diameter at breast height. This was followed by poison-girdling of defective trees and those considered to be uncommercial to encourage natural regrowth of the next generation of dipterocarps, especially the light-loving species of Shorea.

Faced with the much more varied conditions of the hill forests, the Selective Management System, which is more typical of other countries in South-East Asia, was adopted. It has been claimed that the Malaysian system is more firmly based on research into such aspects as growth rates, to ensure continuous production with cuts every 25-40 years. Its success is seen to be contingent on reducing logging damage to not more than 30 per cent of the intermediate-size trees (Than", 1990). Burgess (1990) is less complimentary about the actual working of the system, which varies from state to state with sometimes very short concession periods and cutting cycles.

Agricultural schemes such as those undertaken by the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) were designed primarily to reduce rural poverty. Although criticized for the speed at which first the lowland and then some of the upland forests have been converted to tree crops, Peninsular Malaysia seems to have at least been successful in reducing the kind of land hunger found in countries like the Philippines and Thailand. That factor, together with the provision of alternative employment opportunities for the rural population, has meant that the PFE does not suffer the incursions of local population-incursions typical of forest areas elsewhere (FAO, 1989). Like its Indonesian counterpart, this forest is subdivided into protective, productive and what are termed amenity forests, the last category including areas set aside for research, floral and faunal protection and recreation. Areas outside the PFE which remain under forest are scheduled for conversion after logging.

Bans on raw-log exports from the peninsula (which have not been followed in East Malaysia) have led to considerable employment generation in downstream processing. From around 1988, shortages of raw materials (and the continued refusal of East Malaysia to supply these) have necessitated a move to other sources, such as rubberwood and plantation supplies; however, much of the latter is still immature.

The East Malaysian state of Sarawak follows its own version of the selective logging system, while a modified uniform system is found in Sabah (Schmidt, 1991). The situation in Sarawak is complicated by the fact that large areas of state land, over much of which the indigenous inhabitants hold customary rights, lie outside the PFE. Most have been perceived by the government as available for logging, despite the protests of some of their native residents. While long-settled groups do have rights to tracts originally cleared before 1958, newcomers and hunter-gatherers, who are still nomadic, do not. All wish to retain access to wider areas of forest for collecting and hunting purposes and, while gaining temporary employment (and sometimes compensation) from logging companies, cite many instances of environmental damage to their lands and streams. As a result, serious conflicts have arisen (Collins, Sayer and Whitmore, 1991; Hong, 1987; Hurst, 1990).

It is largely from state land that Sarawak's very substantial and quite unsustainable production of logs has originated, despite promises from the state government to incorporate much more of its forested land into the PFE and restrict total out-turn of timber, strategies also endorsed by the recent International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) mission (ITTC, 1990). In particular, the mission suggested withdrawing land under dispute from native community claims from timber production, at least until all such claims had been legally settled. It estimated that about 15 per cent of total production would be affected by such a move.

The Philippines

In common with most other South-East Asian states, the Philippines theoretically practices a system of selective felling, having been influenced originally by American forestry practices. The forest estate is, however, dwindling fast, following the large volumes exported up to the early 1970s and a continuing high level of production, despite attempts to set limits. According to the World Bank (1989b), 90 per cent of the most valuable old-growth dipterocarp forests have been lost in the last 30 years since around 1960, due mainly to excessive logging induced by the underpricing of the resource. Timber is now supposedly processed locally, but logs are sometimes still shipped out illegally.

The Philippine government classifies lands above 18 per cent slope as belonging to the forest sector; these may then be leased out to private interests through Timber License Agreements. Up to two-thirds of these agreements are held for short periods, perhaps 9 or 10 years only; the short period indicates a lack of interest in long-term sustainability. Selective logging is in fact said to be hardly practiced because intensive operations are easier and cheaper. It has also been suggested that the granting of timber concessions has been 'instrumental in the process of elite formation in the country' (Bautista, 1990: 78, fn. 13). The state's enforcement capacity is weak, both in relation to the activities of loggers and to incursions by small settlers within the upland forest domain. As the FAO (1989: 194) points out, 'Even where the catchment forests have survived, the failure of other measures in the economy to relieve the poverty and population induced pressure for land, still shows the social limits to official land use designations.'

This has resulted in ecological decline with high rates of erosion throughout the uplands, together with flooding and sedimentation on the lowlands (Myers, 1988) and an imminent timber famine. Following failed attempts at total bans, from early 1989 the government introduced embargoes on logging in all provinces with less than 40 per cent tree cover; this includes all but 9 of the 73 provinces (Collins, Sayer and Whitmore, 1991).


Thailand also instituted a ban on logging in 1989, following ecological disasters consequent upon excessive deforestation. In this case, the ban is total. Hafner and Apicharvullop (1990) maintain that the Royal Forest Department, like most government forest departments until the late 1980s, has been too preoccupied with the technical and commercial aspects of timber production which have served the interests of large-scale, forest-based enterprises. Problems of human-forest interaction have been largely ignored, except to blame the people for increasing levels of forest destruction. Now, with the forests confined to the north and areas along the borders, the resources available in nearby Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia are attracting the attention of former timber concessionaires Increasingly, eucalyptus plantation programmes, together with agroforestry schemes, are attempting to restore some kind of forest cover to the desired level of 40 per cent of the country's area (Arbhabhirama et al., 1988).


Myanmar's management system for its teak forests, with a 30-year selection cycle and use of elephants to haul logs to the streams, is the oldest in operation in the Tropics; it was started in the mid-nineteenth century. Improvement fellings are carried out twice during the cycle, eliminating specimens with poor growth and clearing vines and parasites. This system is operated largely in the reserved forests (about 15 per cent of the total) under strict management of the forest department (Union of Myanmar Forest Department, 1989). Despite some poaching and encroachment into the reserves (described as 'within manageable proportions'), the system has been successful in maintaining sustained yields of timber with minimal damage to the environment. Its continuing viability is, however, being threatened by commercial pressures to replace the elephants with machines (Collins, Sayer and Whitmore, 1991).

Much greater pressures on the teak forests are occurring in the border areas with Thailand, home to the Karen and Mon minority groups. Despite security problems and periodic cessation of logging due to fighting between the Burmese and Karen armies, very rapid deforestation has been taking place under largely mechanized operations. A Karen source has been quoted as saying that the logging companies 'are cutting indiscriminately because they don't care for the future. One year of their cutting is equal to ten years of ours (with elephants and muscle-power only) and they don't replant the teak as we did' (Bangkok Post, 19 May 1990). Thai customs sources estimate that at least 0.5 million trees have been felled by these loggers in the first 2 years of the 5-year concessions (Bangkok Post, 3 November 1990).

In the period to 1995, the Myanmar government aims to use 60 per cent of the forest area for timber production, much of it to be exported in the form of raw logs, but there is discussion of the need for more local processing. Thai border trade with Myanmar doubled in value between 1989 and 1990 to B2 billion. Most of the imports are of rawteak logs (Bangkok Post, 16 July 1991). There are no plans for conversion of any forest land to permanent agriculture, though shifting cultivation is perceived to be a problem, particularly in watershed areas, over which no individual state organization has definitive control (Union of Myanmar Forest Department, 1989).

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