Kolkata

Darjeeling tea gardens bear the brunt

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The landslips and mudslides triggered by the torrential downpour have washed away labour dwelling, cut off internal roads and uprooted tea bushes.

The tea gardens around Darjeeling seem to have bore the brunt of the climatic disaster that struck the hilly regions of West Bengal on Tuesday night. The landslips and mudslides triggered by the torrential downpour have washed away labour dwelling, cut off internal roads and uprooted tea bushes.

Early reports suggest that most of the deaths are feared to have taken place in and around the tea-growing areas of Mirik. Entire villages have been washed away according to officials of the Darjeeling Tea Association.

“Although the sky was overcast, such a cloud burst was unexpected at this time of year as these regions get heavy rainfall only from July. The rain started at around eight at night and continued for nearly five hours accompanied by frequent lightning — it was fearsome,” said J.D. Rai the superintendent of a tea estate which makes one of the finest brands of Darjeeling tea.

“Nearly 100 houses have been washed away and three people were killed within our estates,” he said.

In the Tingling subdivision, an entire village along with the dwelling of tea workers were caught in the mudslides and the land slips that came with the downpour. Unconfirmed estimates put the toll at 24 in the tea-growing areas.

Crop loss

The 87 gardens that are certified producers of Darjeeling tea have witnessed a shrinkage in their output due to a variety of factors include the age of the tea bushes. The life of a tea bush is 50 years and 30 per cent of the Indian tea bushes have exceeded their life, making them non responsive to improved farm practices. The shift to organic cultivation has also reduced output. India now produces only around nine million kg of its best known agro export.

Several tea bushes were uprooted and an estimated 150 hectares of tea-land has been damaged in Tuesday’s disaster during a production time which yields some of the finest ‘second flush’ teas. “There has been a huge impact,” the DTA official said on the impact of the rains.

Two of West Bengal’s hydel plants located in the upper reaches of the State have escaped nature’s wrath. Power department officials said that the 44 MW Jaldhaka Hydel Power Generation plant and the 51 MW Rammam Stage II were unaffected.

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Printable version | Apr 25, 2019 3:20:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/darjeeling-tea-gardens-bear-the-brunt/article7376321.ece

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