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The areas of extensive Imperata cylindrica grassland in modern Borneo might well be viewed as a transitional land-use type, where past methods of agriculture (including cash-cropping) or livestock-rearing accompanied by regular burning have resulted in the elimination of forest and the creation of what might appear to outside observers to be a "critical zone" of low fertility and low population. Although local people are aware of the reduced fertility, they find various uses for the grasslands, usually in conjunction with, and complementary to, nearby forests. Permanent farming is possible in the grassland environment and, wherever population pressure increases, the grass may become scarce and more highly valued. Permanent farming systems must, however, be allowed to evolve gradually, as their practitioners sometimes lack the appropriate technology to ensure their immediate success. Whereas some shifting-cultivation systems include grassland creation, either deliberately or inadvertently, others do not. Site features such as soil or rainfall conditions (especially severe droughts) might also be responsible. Weinstock (1990: 60) has noted that poor logging practices not followed by reforestation can also lead to grassland creation. He stated that "available studies of Imperata are based more upon guesswork and anti-shifting cultivation bias than on fact."

Governments are particularly guilty of such bias; attempts to eliminate shifting cultivation through forced and paternalistic conversion of its practitioners to "improved" systems are likely to fail, as are reforestation projects that ignore existing uses of the grass. The longterm success of reforestation projects is not yet assured, but some permanent restoration of tree cover, particularly in conjunction with the evolution of local agricultural systems, certainly seems possible. There is already a history of indigenous evolution of agro-forestry systems in Kalimantan. Allowing control of trees to be in the hands of local people would be one way of assisting the success of reforestation projects. Despite the increasing rates of forest conversion in Borneo, it would also appear unlikely for the net result of all these conversions to be grassland, given the long period over which the existing grassland has developed and the generally high rainfall in Borneo, which, despite the impact of drought, would in many areas tend to support scrub or degraded forest rather than grassland. Increased population pressure would, in general, be more likely to eliminate the grass than to perpetuate it.


1. This case is also discussed in chapter 8 in connection with the impact of fire.
2. Work described here between 1984 and 1986 formed part of a project carried out by Potter and sponsored by LIPI and Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. It is partly reported in Potter (1987a, 1987b). Subsequent updating has been done independently by Potter.

Urban development and social welfare

Levels of urbanization
The major urban centres of Borneo
Poverty and social welfare

Following the brief introduction to this topic in chapter 3, here we will deal more specifically with the nature of the urban places that have developed in the region, with urban-rural relationships, and with the question of poverty, both urban and rural.

Levels of urbanization

Before it is possible to discuss trends in the proportion of the population residing in urban areas of Borneo and Peninsular Malaysia, it is necessary to examine the definitions of "urban" as employed by the two countries. Malaysia uses a population of 10,000 within a gazetted administrative area, whereas Indonesia adopts a more complex set of criteria, including a population density of over 5,000 per km2, less than 25 per cent of the population engaged in agriculture, and possession of a number of "urban" facilities. The fact that definitions differ between the two countries, and that both were adopted only at the 1980 censuses, replacing earlier criteria, means that accurate comparisons in time and space are difficult. Both are considered to understate actual levels of urbanization or city-like living conditions (Ko, 1991; Hugo, 1993).

The boundaries that have been used to demarcate cities, or city cores, or "townland" have also varied over time. Although this is a common problem for urban studies, it would appear that many of the Malaysian cities are "underbounded," which greatly understates their current size, whereas the Indonesian authorities have been more liberal in providing their cities with wider boundaries within which to grow, including some rural lands (Wood, 1985; Mohd Yaakub Hj. Johari and Baiyah Ag. Mahmon, 1989; Samad Hadi, 1990; Ko, 1991). The Indonesian situation presents less of a problem for the major cities, because "rural" components are separated. There is a difficulty, however, in identifying the precise size of smaller towns because they are included in the urban population of larger regencies (kecamatan).

Bearing the above caveats in mind, some generalizations can none the less be made. First, levels of urbanization, although increasing in all of the territories under study, are in most cases below the average for both Malaysia and Indonesia, the core areas of which are more urbanized than are the frontiers. Kalimantan had 27.5 per cent of its population in urban areas in 1990, compared with 35.6 per cent for Java and 30.1 per cent for Indonesia as a whole. The overall Kalimantan rate disguised marked contrasts, however, from a low 17.6 per cent in Central Kalimantan to 48.9 per cent in East Kalimantan. The latter has the highest urbanization rate for any Indonesian province outside of Jakarta (Sensus Penduduk Indonesia, 1990). Figures for Malaysia, using the 10,000 population cut-off rate with restricted boundaries, give a rate of urbanization of 24.4 per cent for Sarawak and 23.4 per cent for Sabah (including Labuan). This is recognized as being far too low. Not only does it seriously understate the size of major towns, it may lead to the odd situation of apparently declining rates of urban growth, as urban cores remain static and populations burgeon in the surrounding suburbs, which are still classified as "rural." It would seem particularly inappropriate for Sabah, where large numbers of foreign immigrants are housed in squatter settlements on the edges of all east coast towns and the capital, Kota Kinabalu. Inclusion of all places over 1,000 (which are defined as "urban small" or "bazaar" and possess some urban characteristics) raises these figures to 28.4 and 27.0 per cent, respectively, which appear more comparable to their Indonesian counterparts, but still understated. Under the latter definition, the overall rate for Malaysia becomes 38.9 per cent, which is still below an "official" rate for 1990 of 43 per cent (World Bank, 1992).

City size

Table 10.1 represents an attempt to derive some reasonably realistic city sizes for the Borneo territories and the eastern littoral of Peninsular Malaysia. In addition to the census figures for the bounded

Table 10.1 Populations of the cities sad towns of Borneo and the eastern Pen insula, 1990/91 (60,000 and above)

City/town Population
Banjarmasin (S. Kalimantan) 444,000
Pontianak (W. Kalimantan) 387,000
Samarinda (E. Kalimantan) 335,000
Balikpapan (E. Kalimantan) 309,000
Kuching (Sarawak)a 267,000
Kota Kinabalu (Sabah)b 250,000
Kuala Terengganu (Peninsula) 229,000
Kota Bharu (Peninsula) 220,000
Sandakan (Sabah)c 175,000
Sibu (Sarawak)d 148,000
Tawau (Sabah)e 116,000
Palangkaraya (C. Kalimantan) 100,000
Kuantan (Peninsula) 93,000
Miri (Sarawak) 87,000
Banjarbaru/Martapura (S. Kalimantan) 85,000
Singkawang (W. Kalimantan) 85,000
Tarakan (E. Kalimantan) 81,000
Kemaman (Peninsula) 72,000
Bandar Seri Bagawan (Brunei) 70,000
Bontang (E. Kalimantan) 67,000
Lahad Datu (Sabah)e 60,000

Sources: Sensus Penduduk Indonesia 1990; Jabatan Perangkaan Malaysia, 1992a, 1992b.

a. Kuching was estimated by Lockard to have 250,000 to 300,000 in the mid-1980s; others have suggested 400,000 (Lockard, 1987; Yusoff bin Hj. Hanifah, 1991). In this table, small settlements and half of the remaining population in the administrative district were added to the "townland" population. This might still be too low.

b. Kota Kinabalu has been described as a "conurbation"; it was suggested that a better idea of the size of the city would be gained if the adjacent area of Penampang was included. The whole administrative area listed under "Kota Kinabalu" plus half of Penampang have been added. Ho Ting Seng suggested a likely population for Kota Kinabalu of 240,000 in 1990 (Ho Ting Seng, 1989; Mohd Yaskub Hj. Johari and Baldev Sidhu, 1989; Samad Hadi, 1990).

c. Sandakan was also described as a conurbation with a dense surrounding population. Many of these people are in squatter settlements of recent migrants. Half of the remaining administrative district population has been added to the total (Teen, 1991).

d. Sibu's population was given by Sutlive (1985/86) as "almost 140,000" in 1984. Here, half of the remaining population of the administrative area has been added to the "townland" numbers; it might be too low.

e. Both Tawau and Lahad Datu have large immigrant populations living in squatter settlements (Tawau 29,000 and Lahad Datu 21,000 in 1988). An allowance has been made for these, plus a small increase (Teen, 1991). urban areas, estimates in the Malaysian literature concerning the "actual" size of the major cities have been taken into account. All "rural" components have been removed from the Indonesian cities.

Although there are still some uncertainties about the sizes of the Malaysian cities, it is believed that the relative order is about correct. It is clear that the four large centres in Kalimantan stand out. East Kalimantan, with its highly urbanized, "enclave" economy, supports two "big" cities in Borneo terms; South and West Kalimantan have one each. Central Kalimantan, with continuing low levels of urbanization, is well down the list. Sarawak and Sabah also support one large centre each; these cities have far less of an industrial orientation than their Indonesian counterparts but play a more prominent role in administration, given the greater relative level of autonomy of the East Malaysian states than of any Indonesian province. Remarkably, only four cities in the Peninsula appear in this table. The two largest, the old state capitals of Kuala Terengganu and Kota Bharu, are both major regional centres. The more southerly places are newer, with growth related to the oil and timber industries. They have not developed a full range of services and occupations, being in the shadow of the large cities of the western Peninsula from which they are accessible in only a few hours by road. The old capital of Pahang state, Pekan, near the mouth of the largest river in the Peninsula, is completely bypassed by the modern transport network and does not appear in the table at all. Thus, of a total population of almost 3.7 million in these 21 towns and cities, 83 per cent is in Borneo, reflecting both the rapid urban growth that has taken place there in recent years and also the dominance of the west coast cities in the modern urban pattern of the more populous Peninsula. Yet the urban system of Borneo, as it now stands, is mainly a product of the present century, whereas both the eastern Peninsular state capitals included in Table 10.1 were important regional capitals in the eighteenth century or earlier, and both had populations between 10,000 and 20,000 before the end of the nineteenth century (Lim Heng Kow, 1978).

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