One of the major problems involving oil palms in Borneo recently involved plans for huge (world’s largest) oil palm plantation in northern Kalimantan. Would involve clearing major areas of forest. I’ve spoken with Stuart Chapman, International Coordinator of WWF-originated Heart of Borneo project, and he told me the planned plantation area would involve substantial proportion of proposed Heart of Borneo. Helped by research by CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research), plus people in oil palm industry, they worked on persuading Indonesian government that the area – in hills – was not suitable for oil palms. Happily, the Indonesian government halted the scheme – which WWF (and others) viewed as a sham, an attempt to fell a huge area for timber.
Are places already, I believe, where trees felled for oil palms, but no palms later planted; timber sold, and land left. So, shenanigans associated with this industry. WWF also showed Kalimantan has large areas that are already cleared, and suitable for oil palms: no need to fell more trees to make way for them. I’ve been through oil palm plantations in Sabah: just horrible monoculture; replaced major biodiversity, and in lowlands where there were the richest rainforest. Borneo now has only tiny fraction of its lowland forests remaining. I’ve heard too that it’s hard to remove oil palms – something re getting rid of roots being real hard.
See also: The Oil Palm Problem in Indonesia from Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.