Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan) sustains ~37 million hectares of native tropical forest. Numerous large-scale infrastructure projects aimed at promoting land-development activities are planned or ongoing in the region. However, little is known of the potential impacts of this new infrastructure on Bornean forests or biodiversity. We found that planned and ongoing road and rail-line developments will have many detrimental ecological impacts, including fragmenting large expanses of intact forest. Assuming conservatively that new road and rail projects will influence only a 1 km buffer on either side, landscape connectivity across the region will decline sharply (from 89% to 55%) if all imminently planned projects proceed. This will have particularly large impacts on wide-ranging, rare species such as rhinoceros, orangutans, and elephants. Planned developments will impact 42 protected areas, undermining Indonesian efforts to achieve key targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity. New infrastructure will accelerate expansion in intact or frontier regions of legal and illegal logging and land colonization as well as illicit mining and wildlife poaching. The net environmental, social, financial, and economic risks of several imminent projects—such as parallel border roads in West, East, and North Kalimantan, new Trans-Kalimantan road developments in Central Kalimantan and North Kalimantan, and freeways and rail lines in East Kalimantan—could markedly outstrip their overall benefits. Such projects should be reconsidered in light of rigorous cost-benefit frameworks.
Citation: Alamgir, M., Campbell, M.J., Sloan, S. et al. High-risk infrastructure projects pose imminent threats to forests in Indonesian Borneo. Sci Rep 9, 140 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-36594-8