Palm-oil in Manipur: Bad to worse

Jinine Laishramcha
Contd from previous issue
Third : Mizoram has planted palm trees in about 29,000 hectares as the biggest producer in the North East. From our next door’s experience it confirms that palm is a highly water- consuming crop with each plant needing about 300 litres of water per day, about 45000 litres of water per hectare every day. In addition to its impact on biodiversity, palm-oil is also a significant threat to soil fertility. According to C. Zohmingsangi, from Mizoram University, who is studying soil biology around palm-oil plantations in Mizoram–nutrients, enzymes and carbon are found in much lower percentage in the soil after palm cropping than other types of forests.
Manipur and other (North) Eastern States are part of the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot. They are home to some 8,000 flora species, 35% of which are endemic. There are nearly 2,200 species of fauna, of which 24% are endemic. The overwhelming consensus among environmentalists is that palm-oil is detrimental to such rich local ecology of (North) Eastern India.
Fourth : If the foothills of Manipur are to be used for the palm-oil, the undertaken will be regretted for that matter sooner than later. The reason is that perfect residential colonies can be extended in and around such scenic surroundings; To accomplish the crucial need of multi-communities residents in a communal harmony setting; To restore the wetlands and waterbodies that people have occupied; To allocate the agricultural paddy fields for meaningful purposes in the valley; To design Manipur afresh avoiding the haywire and unplanned towns and the leikais; To avoid the frequent floods To align the beautiful landscape for tourist attraction.
Finally, there are a good bunch of eco-friendly projects that can be alternatives to such questionable palm-oil cropping. Integrated farming, horticulture, medicinal plants, bamboo, hemp so on and on can yield better than this toxic palm. Why on earth do the State and its agencies fail always to execute such ? If they are sincere and committed, a green heaven on our native soil that is economically viable, contributes to restore forests and water-sources is possible. The writer is Assistant Prof at the University of Suwon, S Korea