Brunei is an unusual shaped country, with a large swathe of Malaysian territory (part of Sarawak) separating the western and eastern districts of Brunei. Even more unusual is that its borders are discernible from space. This Google Maps satellite image shows that the majority of Brunei’s territory appears to be a darker shade of green than Malaysia’s.
The reason for this is logging.
This close up of a section of the border reveals a tell-tale maze of dirt logging roads on the Malaysian side, built to extract fallen trees. The jungle on the Brunei side remains relatively pristine.
Here is another section.
This image shows how neat rows of oil palm trees have replaced the rainforest on the Malaysian side of the border.
Why the big difference in land usage between the two countries?
Conservationists would argue that Brunei has done a better job in protecting its forests by:
- Reducing the number of licensed logging operators.
- Increasing the area of gazetted (protected) forests to 55% of the total land area.
- Enforcing laws with regular patrols by forest rangers.
- Banning the export of raw logs and sawn timber and limiting exports to finished and semi-finished products such as furniture components, door frames, doors etc.
Economists on the other hand might point out that Brunei is so oil-rich (forestry only contributed a minuscule 0.14% to GDP in 2018) that it does not need to exploit its forest resources as aggressively as Malaysia. Furthermore, Brunei’s pampered citizens enjoy generous handouts from government such as free education, healthcare, pensions, housing schemes, subsidised petrol and utilities. Given these perks, there is less incentive for Bruneians to earn a living doing dangerous work in a steaming jungle.