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Gaurav Gogoi writes to PM Modi against oil palm production in Northeast India

GUWAHATI: Assam Lok Sabha MP Gaurav Gogoi today wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in staunch opposition to the Centre’s proposed push for oil palm cultivation in the Northeast in the wake of the introduction of the “National Mission on Edible Oils — Oil Palm”by the cabinet on August 18.

The Congressman in his letter wrote that “the history of oil palm cultivation points to serious ecological and social devastation that can result from its monoculture South East Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.”

The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa too was facilitated by the oil palm plantations by bringing fruit bats in contact with people, Gogoi further wrote in his letter.

The Congressman contended that the “large scale cultivation of oil palms can have irreversible effects on the environment.”

Gaurav Gogoi urged the PM to take cognizance of the harms of oil palm cultivation in North East India and take prompt action to ensure that sustainable alternatives to the same are implemented.

“Being non-native to the agro-climatic features of the North East oil palms will require higher inputs to thrive in the region. They are water-intensive and can aggravate the desertification of North East land which is at 12 75% at present Depletion of groundwater and climate vulnerability will become part of everyday life in the North East. Human-wildlife conflicts are likely to increase and the economic vulnerability of forest fringe communities will be worsened,” he wrote.

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Oil palm cultivation, MP Gogoi wrote, can also have adverse effects on the income of farmers in the region, among whom 80% are marginal farmers.

“It takes 5 to 7 years for maturation and will incur losses of about Rs 7 lakh during this period. Once matured, oil palms can generate only about Rs 1 lakh per ha It will also push the region to issues of food security as the incentives promised risk the replacement of food crops with oil palm This will only aggravate the nutritional crisis facing the region at present,” he stated.

Gaurav Gogoi added that crops like bamboo that have a higher benefit-cost ratio, lower input costs short maturation periods, less water consumption and better earnings must be prioritized.

“Organic modes of cultivation as well as mixing of staple food crops with endemic cash crops to reduce food security risks must be encouraged by the Government Alternatives to oil palm such as coconut sunflower and black seed must be promoted among farmers Not only are they more economically viable to farmers they are also suited for the agro-climatic zone of the North East,” he wrote.

Environmentalists argue that this farming of oil palm trees is extremely bad for the planet. Palm oil production is said to have been responsible for about 8% of the world’s deforestation between 1990 and 2008. Some also say that eating palm oil is not good for health, as it is high in saturated fat.

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