The Manipur Government has sought the approval of a project worth Rs. 6.8 crore from the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs for plantation of lemongrass in 130 hectares across different hill districts in the state as an alternative to poppy plantation.
As the state awaits approval from the centre, official sources informed that steps have been taken up to implement a pilot project costing Rs 60 lakh by the Manipur Food Industries Corporation Limited to plant lemongrass on 10 hectares of Senapati district and 3 hectares in Ukhrul district. The project may further expand if it is successful. The State RD&PR department has also given permission to plantation of lemongrass under MGNREGA.
The state government has been exploring alternative for poppy plantation which has become main cash crop in some of the hill districts of Manipur. Illegal poppy plantation has not only taken over jhum cultivation, it has become one of the factors contributing to deforestation.
As per the ISFR report, the state has lost forest cover by 499 sq. km between 2016 to 2018. The data interpretation period is from October 2017 to February 2018. Of the total lost area, 491 sq. km. is in the Hill Districts namely Churachandpur, Tamenglong, Senapati, Chandel and Ukhrul. Maximum loss of forest cover is in Churachnadpur about 250 sq. km. Churachandpur and Tamenglong are the extremely fire prone areas.
Rampant felling of trees for poppy cultivation in Hill Districts has contributed tremendously to Forest cover loss, said the Manipur Forest department.
According to data provided by the Narcotic and Affairs of Border (NAB) for the crop year starting September 2017 to March 2018, narcotics police along with the help of security forces destroyed 1853 acres of poppy plants, 2240 acres in the crop year September 2018 to March 2019 and 2306 acres in the crop year September 2019 to March 2020.
On Saturday, Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh chaired a consultative meeting of village chiefs of different villages of Ukhrul district, which are affected by destruction of poppy plants under the government’s ‘War on Drugs’ campaign at Chief Minister’s Secretariat. Plantation and processing of lemongrass as an alternative livelihood for affected villagers was the main agenda of the meeting.
N. Biren Singh reportedly directed the officials to convene a joint meeting of all the concerned officials and stakeholders to identify the villages where lemongrass plantation may commence.
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