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India's Palm Oil expansion plans to Ignore climate change impact

India is set to become the world's largest importer of palm oil by 2024, with a projected demand of 23.5 million tonnes per year.

By Apoorva
New Update
India's palm oil industry

India's plans to expand its palm oil industry have faced criticism from environmental activists and experts. They have raised concerns about the environmental impact of such an expansion. India is set to become the world's largest importer of palm oil by 2024, with a projected demand of 23.5 million tonnes per year. However, critics argue that the environmental impact of the industry has not been adequately assessed.

Impact Assessment of India's Palm Oil Industry

A recent study by the Climate Impact Research Center found that the expansion of palm oil plantations in India could lead to a 50% increase in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This could undermine the country's efforts to meet its climate goals under the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. The study has highlighted the need for a comprehensive impact assessment of the palm oil industry. The assessment would ensure that the expansion is sustainable and does not jeopardize India's climate commitments.

Oil palm fruits|
Oil palm fruits| Photo: Moses Ceaser/CIFOR

Environmental Consequences of India's Palm Oil Expansion

The expansion of India's palm oil industry could have severe environmental consequences. Environmentalists have raised concerns about the impact of palm oil expansion on India's forests, wildlife, and biodiversity. The conversion of forests and other natural habitats to palm oil plantations could result in the loss of important ecosystems and endangered species, such as the Indian elephant and the Bengal tiger. Moreover, the use of palm oil in the production of biofuels and other products has been linked to deforestation, land grabbing, and human rights abuses in other parts of the world, such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

The use of fertilizers and biomass burning during palm oil production releases potent greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change. Moreover, palm oil cultivation requires large amounts of water, leading to depletion of groundwater resources and water pollution. The expansion of palm oil plantations in India has also led to human rights violations. For example, indigenous communities and small farmers being displaced from their land, and workers are exposed to hazardous pesticides. To minimize the environmental impact of palm oil production, India should adopt sustainable cultivation practices, such as the use of agroforestry systems and organic farming methods. Consumers can also play an important role by choosing products made with sustainably sourced palm oil or alternatives to palm oil.

Landscape showing an oil palm plantation
Landscape showing an oil palm plantation | Photo: Moses Ceaser/CIFOR


The expansion of India's palm oil industry has been criticized for ignoring the impact of climate change and environmental consequences. While the industry has potential economic benefits, there is a need for a comprehensive assessment of the impact and promotion of sustainable alternatives. Critics have called for greater transparency and accountability in the sector. Furthermore, for sustainable alternatives to palm oil, such as indigenous oilseeds and agroforestry, to be promoted and incentivized. As, this would reduce the country's reliance on palm oil imports and mitigate the impact of its expansion.

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