MoS dodges question on push for oil palm cultivation

Staff Reporter

ITANAGAR, 23 Sep: Union MoS for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Ashwini Kumar Choubey on Thursday dodged a question on his ministry’s stand on the push for oil palm cultivation in the Northeast.

In a press briefing, the union minister said there is no precise scientific report on the ecological impact of oil palm cultivation.

“This is related to the ministry of agriculture, since you have asked. The central government is taking it seriously. The scientific reports on oil palm plantation don’t suggest any worst impact. However, it is not right to comment at this stage,” Choubey said.

“Our prime concern is, it should not be impacted ecologically. However, the inter-ministries will discuss over this issue to resolve it,” he said.

Speaking on Choubey’s behalf, senior advisor to the minister, Col Naveen Jha said: “We are very much concerned for the protection of our environment. Any policy which violates that policy will not be implemented. As far as oil palm is concerned, we have not got any scientific report at this stage.”

The union cabinet cleared the Rs 11,040-crore National Mission on Edible Oils – Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) in August, with focus on growing the crop in the Northeast and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands “due to their favourable rainfall and temperature.”

The clearance came despite red flags raised by the Indian Council of Forestry Research & Education, an autonomous institute under the environment ministry.

The MoS also said that the ministry is willing to release funds if a proposal for declaring the Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary as a tiger reserve is received from the state government.

He assured to expedite release of funds under various schemes, and asked the state to submit required documents like utilization certificates and performance reports. Choubey also assured that the environment ministry would extend all possible support in promoting ecotourism in Arunachal Pradesh.

Applauding the statewide ‘airgun surrender campaign’ initiated by Environment & Forest Minister Mama Natung, the union MoS said that the campaign could be a “role model in creating awareness to protect wildlife animals across the country and the world.”

On Natung’s proposal to “exchange pairs of hoolock gibbons and rhinoceroses from Patna (Bihar) zoo,” the MoS assured to work out the modalities.

Earlier in the day, Choubey visited the biological park in Itanagar and inspected the hoolock gibbon breeding centre inside the park.

He handed over Rs 25,000 to the widow of slain animal attendant Poulash Karmakar (who was killed by a zoo tiger on 18 May) under the Supplementary Accident Assurance Scheme.

During the programme, seven meritorious sportspersons were felicitated and four persons surrendered their airguns.

Besides Natung, MLAs Kumsi Sidisow and Tania Soki and PCCF RK Singh attended the programme.