19th Aug 2021 11:08:PM Editorials
Eastern Sentinel Arunachal News

The Centre’s National Mission on Edible Oils – Oil Palm with an earmarked ₹11,040 crore to encourage palm oil production in India has a special focus on Northeast India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted the decision as “a game-changer when it comes to helping oil palm farmers and creating an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. The Northeast and the Andaman Nicobar Islands will specially benefit from this.” The PM’s tweets last sentence itself rings alarm bells among many environmentally conscious citizens as both these areas are ecologically highly sensitive.
To say that palm oil is divisive will be an understatement. Despite its affordability and multi-purpose use in food and bio-fuel, it remains a controversial commodity.
Palm oil is the cheapest vegetable oil in the world, and is used extensively in packaged products found in supermarkets— everything from processed foods, cosmetics, soap and detergents and cooking. While its advocates push its economic returns, efficient use of land and supporting millions story, to its detractors it is a cause of deforestation and social conflict, a direct threat to endangered species and a contributor to climate change. Oil palm has gained notoriety for causing massive deforestation, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Arunachal Pradesh signed a memorandum of understanding with Ruchi Soya Industries to plant 25,000 hectares of oil palm in four districts – East Kameng, Papumpare, Lower Subansiri and West Siang.  The project was introduced in East Siang district in April 2016, with around 230 hectares of land planted in Pasighat, Mebo, Oyan-Sille, Ruksin, Bilat and Nari block. Not much progress has been made since. But the new push by the Centre which has earmarked a revival package of Rupees 70.45 crore to the North Eastern Regional Agriculture Market Corporation Limited is likely to infuse renewed vigor.
Despite the high oil per hectare yield and market, Arunachal Pradesh must not jump into the bandwagon without carefully weighing the pros and cons.
Oil Palm cultivation requires hot, humid climatic conditions all year round for optimum growth and yield. Arunachal which has a brief monsoon period and a long dry winter season may not be conducive for its growth. Second, the state is a biodiversity hotspot having the second highest number of plant, bird and animal species in the world and more discoveries made as we speak. Another important point is that the majority of Arunachal’s lands are community-managed Unclassified State Forests (USF), which cater to the needs of tribal communities. Many would argue that these forests also used for ‘Jhum’ cultivation is equally destructive but, indigenous communities practise and observe the natural cycles of forest regeneration.  Oil palm cultivation however is intensive and invasive and will require hectares of thriving forests to be felled and readied for plantations.
A lot is at stake here and the government must examine the dangers and potential risks vis-à-vis benefits before taking an informed decision.

Kenter Joya Riba

(Managing Editor)
      She is a graduate in Science with post graduation in Sociology from University of Pune. She has been in the media industry for nearly a decade. Before turning to print business, she has been associated with radio and television.
Email: kenterjoyaz@easternsentinel.in / editoreasternsentinel@gmail.com
Phone: 0360-2212313

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