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Heart of Borneo: Saving Forests in Southeast Asia

Article | 27 February 2013

ADB is partnering with WWF and the governments of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia to conserve the lush forests of Borneo, providing sustainable livelihood for local populations and a safe haven for thousands of animals and plant species.

The Heart of Borneo (HoB), which straddles Indonesia, Malaysia, and parts of Brunei, contains the largest contiguous forest area remaining in Southeast Asia and is one of the most biologically diverse habitats on Earth.

An estimated 12 million local and indigenous people depend on the HoB. Each year, an estimated 1 million cubic meters of timber is smuggled out of the area, leaving destroyed forests, threatened biodiversity, lost livelihood opportunities, and higher costs for forest rehabilitation. Conflicting laws and ambiguity over areas of responsibility for managing resources has left the region highly vulnerable.

The HoB Initiative addresses the threats to this area, namely forest conversion into rubber and palm oil plantations, logging for timber and pulp production, forest fires, oil and mining industries, and illegal wildlife trade. These contribute to the considerable loss in forest biodiversity and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which result from deforestation and forest degradation.

ADB's role

ADB has been playing a key role in helping to promote the HoB Initiative and serving as the lead agency to mobilize financial resources.

The HoB project will provide support to strengthen policies and institutions for improved sustainable forest and biodiversity management, and it will help raise the capacity of government agencies to develop sustainable livelihood opportunities, with measures such as pilot schemes for local communities to be paid for ecosystem services.

ADB and environmental sustainability

Environmental sustainability is a prerequisite for economic growth and poverty reduction in Asia and the Pacific. ADB's long-term strategic framework for 2008-2020 (or Strategy 2020) identifies environmentally sustainable growth as a key strategic development agenda, and environment as a core area for support. ADB promotes and invests in sound environmental and natural resource management, while promoting green growth, low carbon development, and adaptation to climate change. ADB's environmental and social safeguards are also a cornerstone of its support to inclusive economic growth and environmental sustainable growth.

In addition to the HoB initiative, ADB supports critical ecosystems in the region through the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Core Environment Program and Biodiversity Corridors Initiative, and the Coral Triangle Initiative.