Borneo is an island found in the southwestern Pacific Ocean along the equator. As part of the Malay Archipelago, this island is the largest island in Asia and third largest island in the world after Greenland and New Guinea. Borneo is shared among three different countries - Indonesia (73%) to the south, Malaysia (26%), and Brunei (1%) to the north. Located to the south of South China Sea, West of Celebes Sea, and north of the Java Sea, this island has different names within the countries that share its territory. Indonesians call the island Kalimantan while in Malay, it is Pulau Borneo.
Demographics and Economy of Borneo
According to 2010 statistics, Borneo has 19.8 million residents mostly concentrated on the coastal towns and smaller towns along rivers. Major cities include Samarinda, Banjarmasin, Kuching, and Balikpapan. Amongst the ethnic groups, the Dayak constitute the majority followed by the Malay, Chinese, Banjar, Orang Ulu, and Kadazan-Dusun. Agriculture, mining, logging, oil, natural gas extraction, and ecotourism are the main drivers of Borneo’s economy, in fact, Borneo is among the largest oil producers in the Southeast of Asia. The main agricultural products include vegetables, cacao, and rubber.
Geography and Climate of Borneo
In detail, the Java Sea and Karimata Strait borders Borneo in the south and, were it not for the deep waters separating the island from Sulawesi, the two would have had a land connection. Borneo covers a total 287,000 square miles, and is largely mountainous (the highest peak on Mount Kinabalu is 13,435 feet above sea level) with some lowlands especially in Central Kalimantan and Sarawak. Most of the rivers are navigable with the Kapuas River system being the longest covering 620 miles followed by the Mahakam River (570 miles), the Rajang (565 miles), the Barito (560 miles), and the Kinabatangan (350 miles) as well as one of the longest underground rivers inside the Clearwater Cave. The rivers support the island’s transport and provide fresh water to the people.
Borneo has an extensive cave system that hosts millions of bats and cockroaches as well as guano of up to 330 feet thick. Borneo’s rainforest is one of the oldest in the world, approximately 140 million years, and host many endemic flora and fauna species like the Dayak fruit bat and the Borneo elephant. Borneo is home to more than 15,000 species of flowering plants, 3,000 tree species, 440 fish species, 420 bird species, and over 220 species of land mammals. The entire coastline has peat swamp forests on infertile soil. The Island’s climate is largely hot and humid with two seasons (October-March is wet while the rest is fairly dry). On average, annual rainfall amounts to 10 inches.
For a region that highly depends on logging to drive the economy, different endemic species like the Bornean orangutan and endangered species like the Bornean clouded leopard and the pygmy elephants face a constant threat of extinction. The extensive forest cover faces constant logging to meet local and international timber demands. More trees are also brought down to pave way for plantations of palm oil and other crops while forest fires have also done significant damages to the cover.
About the Author
Mark is a student at Maseno University and community commentator in Kenya. Mark also has interests in geography, African history, and international development.
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