Guwahati: A group of MPs from the Northeast have urged the government to reconsider its plans to expand oil palm cultivation in the region, citing the environmental and social risks involved.
The MPs, led by Pradyut Bordoloi of the Congress, said that the expansion of oil palm would lead to deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity in the Northeast.
Bordoloi along with Congress MPs Vincent Pala (Meghalaya) Abdul Khaleque (Assam) and Gaurav Gogoi (Assam), NPP MP Agatha Sangma (Meghalaya), NPP MP Lorho S Pfoze (Manipur), submitted a letter to Prime Minister Modi urging him to review the plan for palm oil expansion in the Northeast.
They also pointed out that the region is climatically unsuitable for oil palm cultivation.
“The government must think along sustainable lines and in wider consultation with all stakeholders before any irreversible damage is done,” Bordoloi said.
The MPs have also called on the government to focus on developing existing cropland in the peninsular region for oil palm cultivation, instead of destroying forests in the Northeast.
“We urge the government to look at bringing such permanently farmed/ agricultural and in peninsular India under oil palm cultivation instead of forest and jhum land in the Northeast,” the Congress MP said.
The MPs’ appeal comes at a time when the government is promoting oil palm cultivation as a way to reduce India’s dependence on edible oil imports.
However, environmental groups have warned that the expansion of oil palm could have a devastating impact on the environment.
A study by the Centre for Science and Environment found that oil palm cultivation could lead to the loss of 2.5 million hectares of forest in India by 2030. The study also found that oil palm plantations store less carbon than forests, and could contribute to climate change.
The MPs’ appeal is a timely reminder of the need to carefully consider the environmental and social impacts of oil palm cultivation before it is expanded in the Northeast.
In addition to the environmental and social risks, the MPs also raised concerns about the economic viability of oil palm cultivation in the Northeast. They pointed out that the region is not suitable for oil palm 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,” Bordoloi said.