Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Wednesday said that before going ahead with the Centre’s plan to promote Palm Oil Cultivation in the Northeastern region, the government will ensure environmental protection.
Sangma told journalists after a meeting of the ruling coalition here, “Whatever steps we take, we will do it only when we are convinced that the environment and interests of the local people are safeguarded.”
“The Government of India’s proposal is there, and obviously we will see to what extent we will go, but we will go once we have done our homework properly,” The CM added.
Sangma further added that not only Meghalaya but many other states in the North East are interested in palm oil cultivation as it will improve chances of livelihood, reported PTI.
“Obviously, we are very clear as a state that we need to balance things out. So whatever decision we take will always be to ensure that the environment should not be affected in the wrong way, the forest cover should not be degraded,” he added.
The environment cell of the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) on Wednesday has requested Chief Minister Conrad Sangma to discard the plan proposed by the Centre to promote palm oil plantation and implement the National Mission on Edible Oils-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) in the state, reported The Northeast Today.
In a letter addressed to the CM, the union stated, “The Environment Cell of the Khasi Students’ Union is of the opinion that the National Mission on Edible Oils — Oil Palm, should not be implemented in the state of Meghalaya.
We urge your esteemed office to pull in other alternative schemes and projects which will be more sustainable and beneficial to the environment and the livelihood of the farmers and public at large.”
The union asserted that palm cultivation will not only harm the environment but also the biodiversity and the public in a nutshell.
The CM while responding to a query asserted that if they happen to implement the Centre’s plan, then the government would ensure that the forest cover is not degraded.
“If we have got barren areas which can be utilized for a plantation like this, then it is a win-win situation. Whatever steps we take, we will do it only when we are convinced that the environment is safe and the interest of the people is safeguarded,” Sangma said.
In India, the demand for edible oil has been on a continual rise, and on 23rd July 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the eight North-Eastern states to support the plan to expand palm oil plantations so that India can be self-sufficient in its palm oil needs, reported The Shillong Times.
The reports by the same news agency suggest that Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali may develop an oil palm plantation in Meghalaya, which could have serious environmental threats. This raised concerns across the whole state. Moreover, Patanjali also has plans to expand this project into different states.
“According to Business North-East the government is aggressively pushing for increased cultivation under the special program on Oil Palm Area Expansion (OPAE), and for the next five years, 12 other states, as well as the North-Eastern states, will see the expansion of oil palm cultivation supported by a budget of 300 crore rupees,” wrote Clarissa C. Giri in The Shillong Times.