The portrayal of the oil palm industry by Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) in this corporate video are rather inaccurate especially the claim that “zero-burning is strictly enforced by Malaysia’s laws”. This claim is inaccurate and outright false. Sarawak has in place its own environmental laws, which allow plantation companies to practice open burning to clear land for planting, even on peat soils.
Open burning is regularly practiced in Sarawak and contributes to the regional air pollution (haze) problem and promotes faster release of GHGs into the atmosphere. The legislation in Sarawak is independent of the Malaysian Federal law, and runs counter to the spirit of the ASEAN Transboundary Haze Agreement,to which Malaysia is a key signatory
The establishment of vast monoculture oil plam plantations has a number of long term negative environmental impacts. The two most serious are: large-scale forest conversion and loss of critical habitat for endangered species. Other common impacts include – soil erosion, air pollution, soil & water pollution and climate change.
Socially new plantations is the most common cause of social conflicts in Sarawak as the rights and livelihoods of local communities are often ignored. Well known native human rights lawyer Baru Bian said he alone has more than 100 NCR land cases pending in court. Almost all of these cases involved encroachment of natives rights by oil palm companies. Not only can this cause negative external impacts but it can also affect the companies involved, and hamper the ability of the companies to expand as planned.
However no doubt there are few positive impacts of oil palm like creating instant millionaires among Felda settlers.