A group of Member of Parliament (MP) hailing from the Northeast region have united in a plea to the government, urging a reconsideration of plans to expand oil palm cultivation in the area.
Highlighting the grave environmental and social hazards posed, the MPs, led by Pradyut Bordoloi from the Congress party, emphasized the potential adverse outcomes linked to such an expansion.
Expressing concern, the MPs underscored that the proposed oil palm expansion could lead to the severe consequences of deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and water scarcity within the Northeast. Joining Bordoloi in the appeal were Congress MPs Vincent Pala (Meghalaya), Abdul Khaleque (Assam), Gaurav Gogoi (Assam), NPP MP Agatha Sangma (Meghalaya), and NPP MP Lorho S Pfoze (Manipur).
The MPs collectively submitted a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging a comprehensive review of the oil palm expansion blueprint for the Northeast. Their submission also pointed to the climatic inappropriateness of the region for oil palm cultivation.
Bordoloi stated, "The government must think along sustainable lines and in wider consultation with all stakeholders before any irreversible damage is done." The MPs further advocated for the government's attention to be diverted towards utilizing existing cropland in the peninsular region for oil palm cultivation, thereby avoiding the destruction of forests in the Northeast.
As India seeks to curtail its reliance on imported edible oils, the government has been championing oil palm cultivation. However, environmental advocates have sounded an alarm, highlighting the potentially catastrophic environmental repercussions of such an expansion.
The Centre for Science and Environment conducted a study which foresees the loss of 2.5 million hectares of Indian forests by 2030 due to oil palm cultivation. The study also revealed that oil palm plantations store less carbon than forests, thus exacerbating climate change concerns.
The plea from the MPs serves as a timely reminder of the indispensable need to meticulously weigh the environmental and social implications before embarking on an oil palm expansion in the Northeast.
Beyond environmental and social concerns, the MPs expressed reservations about the economic feasibility of oil palm cultivation in the Northeast. They highlighted the region's unsuitability for such cultivation due to its high rainfall and low temperatures.
"The government must assess whether oil palm cultivation is economically viable in the Northeast. If it is not, then the government should not pursue this project," stated Bordoloi, encapsulating the sentiment echoed by the concerned MPs.
This collective appeal underlines the necessity for a comprehensive assessment and a well-informed decision-making process that takes into account the multifaceted implications of oil palm expansion in the region.