Oil Palm Risks: NSF calls for informed decision-making

DIMAPUR, AUGUST 5 (MExN): The Naga Students Federation (NSF) today expressed concerned about the long term negative impact that commercial cultivation of oil palm could have on people’s health, the forest, biodiversity and quality of soil in Nagaland.

A press release from the NSF noted that the Union Cabinet allocated 11, 040 crore for the National Mission on Edible Oils, with a focus on North-eastern states and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Nagaland state alone has a total of 5,423 hectares under oil palm cultivation across seven districts and efforts are being made on war-footing to expand the area under oil palm cultivation for which the Department of Agriculture appears to be leaving no stone unturned, it said. 

In a recent report released by the Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change prepared by the Forest survey of India (FSI), it was stated that Nagaland lost a total of 235 sq. km of forest land in the last two years, the federation pointed out. 

“This can be largely attributed to the forest clearing for starting the cultivation of oil palms. Our rich bio-diversity, flora and fauna, wild fruit plants, rare medicinal plants and the habitat of rare species stands threatened to be annihilated if the plantation drive continues,” it stated.

The NSF maintained that one cannot ignore the fact that oil palm tree requires 200 to 300 litres of water per day and Nagaland as a state which often faces drought and uneven rainfall cannot afford to cultivate such a water guzzling plant on a commercial scale. 

“One cannot also turn a blind eye to other environmental concerns associated with the oil palm cultivation such as soil degradation, water pollution from fertilizers which in turn pose a huge risk to human health,” it further stated

The NSF urged the authorities concerned to thoroughly peruse the various failure stories of the oil palm cultivation in various parts of the world and provide informed advice to the citizens of the state and not mislead them with promises of ‘economic windfall’. 

“The story of the failure of oil palm cultivation in the state of Mizoram cannot be overlooked. Sugar-coating a severely burnt cake should not be the way forward,” it said while viewing that “compromises which will have an irreversible negative impact on our environment, human health and hasten climate change cannot and should not be made for economic benefit alone.” 

It therefore urged the concerned department to exercise utmost caution in propagating the economic benefit of the oil palm while shying away from “educating the gullible farmers of its negative impacts.”

Welcomes govt OM for In Service Docs
The Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) meanwhile stated that strict implementation of the Office Memorandum (OM) issued by the Department of Health and Family Welfare directing In-service doctors to stop private practice within one month will positively change the healthcare landscape in the state.

The NSF stated that the department has taken the right step forward in order to check the “menace of doctors availing NPA still indulging in their private practices even during their duty hour.” This step will go a long way in ensuring that the ordinary citizens of the state are provided with proper consultations and care by the doctors serving in the government, it said. The federation added that “the unnecessary draining of the state exchequer by these doctors indulging in moonlighting can be checked and the resources utilized in other programs which will benefit the citizens of the state.”

The NSF said that it has been a long standing demand of the federation that the DoHFW “crack the whip” on those doctors indulging in the unethical practice of private practices or running their private hospitals despite availing the benefit of NPA. 

The NSF appealed to all private hospitals, clinics and nursing homes to strictly comply with the OM by not engaging any in-service Government Doctors, Nurses, Technicians and Health workers in their establishments. 

It also appealed to all the Deputy Commissioners, whom the DoHFW has entrusted for the enforcement of the OM, to duly carry out this responsibility in letter and in spirit. The NSF shall not tread lightly if any dereliction from such a responsibility is brought to the notice of the office of the Naga Students’ Federation, it said. 

NCCAF calls meeting on Forest Bill and Oil Palm cultivation
Meanwhile, the Nagaland Community Conserved Areas Forum (NCCAF) has convened an emergency meeting with all its individual CCA members on the issues of Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill 2023 and Nagaland Mega Palm Oil Plantation Drive 2023 in the foothills of Nagaland on August 10 in Dimapur. A press release from the NCCAF informed that the time and venue will be shared later in the WhatsApp group. The forum requested that one representative from each CCA be present in the meeting.