Stuart Franklin traveled to Sarawak, Borneo, in February 2018, to examine the plight of indigenous people—mostly Penan and Iban—in the face of logging and corporate and state land-grabbing. Franklin also looked at the impact of dam construction along the Rajang river.
Franklin found diminishing access to the rainforest for many indigenous communities and a lack of native customary rights to the land. Where access was possible many of the forest products that have sustained these communities over centuries are now seriously depleted due to catastrophic logging over most of Sarawak and Borneo.
These forest goods include rattan, wild pig, sago palm, and a wide variety of forest fruits that form part of the destroyed rainforest habitat essential for the survival not only of indigenous people, but of birds, mammals, and the whole spectrum of forest taxa. Fish are also disappearing in many river basins as forest topsoil and sediment block stream channels.
The environmental destruction in Sarawak, the loss of larger Dipterocarp trees, and species loss are imposed by corporate and political forces, over one or two generations, on a once diverse and thriving rainforest.
Indigenous people, once careful stewards of the rainforest, have been driven out of the forest to resettlement centers and denuded villages.