10 Countries with Severe Deforestation Problems

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When it comes to combating climate change and maintaining biodiversity, deforestation is considered a big problem in many parts of the world. 

Deforestation is a severe issue in many regions of the world, which should not surprise you. Some countries are cutting down their forests at alarming rates regarding biodiversity preservation and climate change mitigation.

However, you may not know which nations now see the highest deforestation rates. We’ve listed those ten countries that are still cutting down trees below:

1. Ethiopia

Ethiopian highlands deforestation
Ethiopian highlands deforestation (source)

In Ethiopia, deforestation refers to inhabitants removing trees for personal purposes such as fuel, hunting, agriculture, and religious reasons.

Shifting agricultural, livestock production, and fuel production to drier locations are the primary drivers of deforestation in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia stands out among emerging countries, particularly Africa, for its historical, cultural, and biological richness. It is home to one of the oldest human ancestors, about 80 languages spoken by distinct ethnic groups, and two internationally significant ecological hotspots.

However, this rich environmental and cultural legacy is in jeopardy, mainly due to deforestation. Ethiopia has Africa’s second-largest population and has experienced famine on several occasions owing to water shortages and natural resource depletion.

Deforestation may have contributed to the already low rainfall levels. Forests have always played a significant role in Ethiopian people’s lives, building materials and fueling their cooking fires and traditional remedies.

According to Earth Trends, Ethiopia had 43,440 km2 of natural forest in 2000, accounting for 4% of its total land area.

2. Cambodia

Cambodia - deforestation
The forest cover of Cambodia from 2001 – 2016 (source)

According to a new analysis from Forest Trends, Cambodia’s natural forests are disappearing at a pace of around 208,000 hectares (804 square miles) every year. Who is the main offender?

Land concessions provided by the government are being used only to enormous clear-cut portions of Cambodia’s oldest and most precious surviving forests – some of the most biodiverse in Southeast Asia – ostensibly for large-scale commercial crops and mostly on degraded grounds.

Economic land concessions (ELCs) are increasingly being utilized to skirt national regulations to benefit from wood removal, whether or not the final goal is to meet agricultural development obligations.

Even though Cambodia officially banned logging concessions in 2001, several ELCs functions as de facto logging concessions.

For years, local Cambodian organizations have feared that the government has permitted businesses to utilize ELCs as forestry concessions.

ELC leases cost a few dollars per hectare and allow for clear-cutting rather than the long-term maintenance that a legal selective logging system would need.

A cubic meter of some of the best wood might bring in a considerable sum. “A premium concession may swiftly pay for itself and more” at those prices, the Cambodia Daily writes in a new long-form story on the subject.

The Cambodian government recently made news by announcing the seizure of around 90,000 hectares from enterprises and reducing the period of ELC licenses from up to 99 years to 50 years.

Even if this represents a shift in policy, it falls short of resolving the issue. You’ll probably get the same results whether you give someone two weeks or a month to pillage a museum. Intervention must occur before the damage is done, not after a half-century has passed.

3. Indonesia

Indonesia is a unique situation. It was formerly wholly covered in forest, as was much of Southeast Asia, and roughly 65 percent of the forest cover persists across the country, with about 29 percent in a border forest state.

However, it has lost many forest cover over the last two decades, showing no abating indications. It’s also a massive nation with many local variables that aren’t considered in the statistics.

For example, more logs were cut in Borneo (the world’s third-largest island) between 1985 and 2000 in the entire continents of South America and Africa combined.

The lowland forest has already lost half of its area, and in ten years, that number might rise to two-thirds.

4. Thailand

Thailand - deforestation
Thailand Deforestation (source)

Deforestation in Thailand refers to converting its wooded land to other uses. Because of the extent of the problem, precise deforestation figures are challenging to come by.

Thai woods cover 31.6 percent (102 million rai) of Thailand’s landmass in 2019, according to the Royal Forest Department (RFD).

According to the department, forest cover increased by 330,000 rai in 2018, an area almost similar to the island of Phuket.

A year ago, a professor reported that wooded acreage had decreased by 18,000 rai since 2016, a significant improvement over the loss of a million rai forests from 2008–2013.

The government established a goal of 40% forest coverage within 20 years in 1975, including 25% wild forest and 15% commercial forest. In 2018, 27 million rai would need to be afforested to meet that goal.

Agricultural growth was the primary driver of deforestation in Thailand during the twentieth century; however, teak degradation was caused directly by logging.

Increased agricultural export output is responsible for most of Thailand’s recent economic success. By removing most of their forest and converting it to agriculture, the country improved productivity.

5. Vietnam

Vietnam has a significant deforestation problem. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the South Vietnam Lowland Dry Forests area is the most disgraced forest outside India.

Only 2% of the woods are recognized as protected, although they are home to numerous endangered species. Furthermore, almost 90% of the woodlands are being deforested.

Protecting biodiversity, recovering previously exploited land, and reversing deforestation would assist indigenous and rural populations, particularly as the conservation of forest resources reduces their economic vulnerability.

Vietnam’s tropical environment makes it a naturally biodiverse country, yet deforestation threatens inhabitants’ lives.

In April 2021, USAID authorized two new projects totaling $74 million to aid in the fight against deforestation in Vietnam and enhance the lives of thousands of poor residents who rely on trees for their survival.

6. Philippines

The Philippines - deforestation
Philippines deforestation (source)

The country’s forest cover decreased from 70% to 20% throughout the twentieth century. The Philippines’ islands used to be completely wooded.

Deforestation is a severe environmental concern in the Philippines, as it is in other Southeast Asian nations.

Only roughly 35% of such woods survive now; the only (somewhat) positive news is that about 28% are still classified as border forests.

With a deforestation rate of 26% during the last twenty years or so, the future isn’t looking so promising. According to Mallari, the most deforestation has occurred in Roxas, Arceli, Puerto Princesa, and Batarasa.

Mallari and his colleagues also looked at changes in forest cover in the Puerto Princesa Underground River National Park.

7. Malaysia

In Malaysia, deforestation and forest degradation are tricky with many causes. However, the attention has been on direct or proximal factors like industrial logging, large-scale commercial oil palm plantations, agriculture, road development, and major dams.

Deforestation also reduces soil quality and is a crucial contributor to global desertification. Weather patterns and environmental factors like these lead to a drop in agricultural productivity. Due to decreased agricultural production, humans face food scarcity in Malaysia.

According to a new global forest map built in collaboration with Google, Malaysia has the world’s most alarming rate of forest loss between 2000 and 2012.

During this time, Malaysia’s overall forest loss was 14.4% of its forest cover in 2000. More prominent than Denmark, the area lost is 47,278 square kilometers (18,244 square miles).

8. Srilanka

Srilanka - deforestation
Forest cover depreciation of Srilanka (source)

Encroachments are due to agricultural, gem mining, settlements, infrastructure development projects, commercial agriculture endeavors, and numerous localized drivers such as cattle grazing, cardamom planting, and forest fires are the main seven reasons for deforestation in Sri Lanka.

The concern on deforestation and forest protection in Sri Lanka this year may be traced back to massive deforestation talks in Wilpattu National Park in 2019.

The latest focus of discussion has been deforestation in Wanathawillu, Anawilundawa, and Sinharaja. More deforestation and unlawful commercial or developmental initiatives, on the other hand, have been recorded in several sections of the nation.

Since then, the subject has become linked to politics and specific politicians. Due to a lack of governmental power, the blame game has progressed.

9. Russia

Due to land clearance for agriculture and logging, Russia’s deforestation occurs at about 2 million hectares per year (20,000 km2).

Legal and illicit logging is stimulated by foreign investment, demand for resources, shipment of wood products, and enormous profits from forest exports.

Illegal logging is estimated to account for 20-30% of the yearly legal logging quota and 50-70 percent of overall Russian wood exports, which is cause for worry.

The government loses millions of dollars due to illegal logging. Land and water resources in locations like the Kuznetsk Basin and the lower Volga River had problems since the Soviet era.

Central planning under communism resulted in directions about where and how much to reduce. This inefficient method squandered a lot of money.

Furthermore, contamination of Southern Siberia and the Ural Mountains by radioactive waste generated during nuclear weapons manufacturing resulted in irreversible harm.

The three main nuclear waste contamination episodes in the Ural Mountains in 1949, 1957, and 1967 produced more than ten times the radiation of the world’s worst known reactor catastrophe near Chernobyl when added together.

Pollutants in the air, such as sulfur, harmed plants in many parts of Russia. These chemicals have also accumulated in lakes, rivers, and seas, causing water pollution and animal deaths.

10. Japan

Japan - deforestation
Timber market for Japan (source)

Japan lost an average of 7,400 hectares of forest per year between 1990 and 2000. This figure equates to a 0.03 percent annual rate of deforestation.

The annual rate of forest change declined by 78.3 percent between 2000 and 2005, to 0.01 percent. Japan lost 0.3 percent of its forest cover or roughly 82,000 hectares during that period.

Since the end of the 1990s, primary cover deforestation has increased by 22.0 percent. According to the total rate of habitat change, Japan lost 0.8 percent of its forest and woodland habitat between 1990 and 2005.

Conclusion 

One of the critical causes of global warming is the rising rate of deforestation. Forest preservation also aids in the prevention of floods and droughts by moderating regional rainfall.

Because many indigenous and forest peoples rely on tropical forests for their livelihoods, investments in preventing deforestation provide them with the resources they require for long-term development. Hence, all the countries listed and not listed in this list should be aware and preserve the forest.