Oil Palm tree – Most Manipur land may dry up after 25 years

Written By: / Editorial / Thursday, 16 June 2022 17:58

“If our farmers from North-Eastern India shift to oil palm cultivation, it will benefit the nation, farmers as well as North Eastern region” – this was what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stated while launching the National Mission on Edible Oils – Oil Palm (NMEO-OP), a new Centrally Sponsored Scheme with a special focus on the Northeast region and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. When the world stood against oil palm tree plantations, one wonders why the oil palm tree plantation is being encouraged by approving a huge amount of financial assistance by the central government.
As per official information, a financial outlay of Rs.11,040 crore has been made for the scheme, out of which Rs.8,844 crore is the Government of India's share and Rs.2,196 crore is the State share and this includes the viability gap funding also.
Under this scheme, it is proposed to cover an additional area of 6.5 lakh hectares (ha.) for oil palm till the year 2025-26 and thereby reaching the target of 10 lakh hectares ultimately.
It is clear that farmers opting for the palm tree plantation are going to be provided a huge amount of subsidies plus other monetary benefits to attract them to the palm tree plantation.
But what the people of the state including those in the government should know is that Prime Narendra Modi or the Chief Minister of Manipur N. Biren Singh might have a political reason for the encouragement of the palm tree plantation but when one looks 25 years from today, the state will turn as barren, dry land. And as happened in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, the future generation will leave with no choice but to blame this generation for the devastation of the land.
In the move to take up the palm tree plantations in the state, the authorities of the state including the Chief Minister and the Forest and Agriculture Minister have been misleading the people, without giving any factual account of the impact of the oil palm tree plantations.
One M.S. Khaidem, a Consultant of the Oil Palm Mission, Manipur had stated about the benefits of oil plant plantations saying that it will only do good for the farmers and the state. During his speech at City Convention on May 30 on the one Day people convention as well as during a panel discussion at IMPACT TV, Mr. Khaidem had said that varieties of crops can be cultivated in-between the palm trees as the gap between each plantation is 30 feet. This is a shrewd statement to attract the farmers as there is scientific evidence that the cultivation of crops like potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, etc. is not successful in the space available between palm trees.
Scientific findings said that a palm tree consumes not less than 200 liters to 300 liters of water per day. It is also a fact that after the plantation of Palm trees it takes five years to yield palm fruits that can produce oil. Within these five years, the center has assured incentives to the farmers and thus farmers with no idea about the impact in the latter days are attracted. But the life span of the palm tree is 25 years as it bears no fruit for oil production and becomes useless. Then the farmers definitely have to uproot the palm trees and again wait for another five years to yield the seeds that produce oil. Here again, with the completion of the life of the palm tree, the soil becomes barren and dry. So there are possibilities that companies may start funding farmers encouraging them to cultivate in other fertile areas where trees are seen grown in plenty. This happened in other parts of the world. And as a result, mass deforestation is reported in other parts of the world.
On the other hand, when one looks deeper into Mizoram's experience, there is no reason why the government of Manipur should encourage palm tree plantations. The condition is bizarre. The watershed development authority gives money to divert water from streams to irrigate oil palm trees. For that people are provided money to set up water tanks to divert water from streams to feed the palm tree. And what has been witnessed is that almost all streams dried up.
One thing that needs to be remembered is that we cannot seduce something which we don’t have natural conditions. And these oil palm tree, of which India is the second-largest importer in the world is an alien crop that is not fit for the soil of Manipur.

About the Author

Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 25+ years in the field of Journalism. A seasoned editor, was a former editor of ISTV News. He resides in Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, with his wife and parents. Rinku can be contacted at [email protected] 

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