Northeast unites in opposing oil palm plantations

By Express News Service

GUWAHATI: After Assam, Meghalaya and Manipur, the Centre’s push for oil palm plantations in the Northeast has met with opposition in Mizoram.

Three Mizoram NGOs, which work in the field of conservation of the environment, cautioned the state government, stating the exotic plantations would cause not only ecological disaster but also social disorder in the tribal society.

In a memorandum submitted to Chief Minister Zoramthanga, the Joint Action Committee on Oil Palm: Mizoram, comprising organisations such as Association for Environment Preservation, Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Network and Conservation Mizoram, sought his action to ensure that oil palm plantations are not expanded in the state.

They warned that such plantations would cause the destruction of biodiversity and ecological devastations.

“Mizoram is rich in biodiversity, both flora and fauna. It has unique ecosystems with a different variety of plants and animals. The rainforests as well as the grasslands, regenerating forests and fallow lands are homes for species unique to each habitat and hence, are equally important,” the memorandum reads.

The three NGOs highlighted the devastating ecological impact, soil deterioration, distortion of groundwater table, impacts on indigenous community rights and knowledge, and loss of biodiversity in many oil palm-producing countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

They said the introduction of the harmful oil palm plantations was not a viable option for a fragile ecosystem like Mizoram.

“The expansion of oil palm cultivation in this small and fragile ecosystem with unique flora and fauna will cause not only ecological disaster but also social disorder in our tribal community in the long run, if not immediately, and therefore, is unacceptable,” they said.

The Northeast has huge potentials in oil palm plantations and the Centre is serious about this sector. However, a section of people, including environmentalists, activists and politicians, stand opposed to the idea.

Earlier, Meghalaya MP, Agatha Sangma, who is the sister of Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, had petitioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi to oppose the oil palm plantations in the state.

She had cautioned that the plantations would threaten the biodiversity hotspots, destroy forests belonging to tribesmen and create serious ethnic strife. The Congress in Assam and some citizens of Manipur had also expressed opposition on similar grounds.

Oil palm is processed to produce palm oil, which is edible oil. The Centre has set its sights on this sector to cut import costs.