The foundation stone for an integrated palm oil factory was jointly laid by Patanjali Ayurved Ltd CEO Acharya Balkrishna and Agriculture Minister Tage Taki at the Niglok Industrial Growth Centre in East Siang district on Wednesday with much fanfare. The state government is betting big on oil palm plantations. The setting up of a palm oil factory is seen as part of this move to promote oil palm plantation in a big way in Arunachal Pradesh. The union government is also extending help in this regard to the state government. For a state like Arunachal, where there is no proper industry to generate revenue and employment opportunities, the government is selling dreams to the people using palm oil.
However, the state government should be careful while promoting palm oil. There is a lesson to learn from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia which paid a heavy price for promoting oil palm cultivation. Native to Africa and brought to southeast Asia during the colonial times, oil palm plantations now cover huge areas of Malaysia and Indonesia. Together, the two countries produce more than 85 percent of the world’s palm oil. The plantation of oil palm trees has replaced massive tracts of rainforests, particularly in the Southeast Asian countries. Similar environmental destruction has been seen in several west and central African countries. Oil palm plantation has deprived native plants and animals of their natural habitats.
Oil palm plantations now cover 11 percent of Indonesia’s Sumatra, the world’s sixth largest island. In places like Sumatra, the industry’s growth has also pushed some of the rainforest’s wildlife species to the brink of extinction. The loss of rainforest limits the ability to sequester a large amount of carbon. This ultimately destroys the rich biodiverse habitats. Large swathes of forests are burned down for the production of palm oil as this is the cheapest way. Experts say that this worsens the situation further. Clear cutting of trees often releases a large amount of carbon into the atmosphere via smoke.