GUWAHATI, June 3 � The North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) has made a fervent appeal to the Assam Power Distribution Company Ltd (APDCL) to change the present tariff of Tea Category to Irrigation Category for the power consumed by the tea estates (TEs) to irrigate their plantations. This will augment irrigation in the TEs of the State, argued the tea planters� body.
In a letter to the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of the APDCL, NETA chairman Bidyananda Barkakoty pointed out that this pre-monsoon
season, State�s tea industry experienced the worst drought- like condition in a period of 25 years, due to the rainless condition for almost six months. This has caused immense damage to the TEs� plantations.
After studying the rainfall pattern and weather condition for the past few years, it has been found that installation of irrigation facilities in all tea growing districts of the State has become inevitable, irrespective of the sizes of the TEs. The situation has come to such a state that many TEs have been compelled to resort to irrigation for about six months in a year due to scanty rainfall, he said.
Speaking to this newspaper, Barkakoty said it has been noticed that those TEs, which have failed to install irrigation facilities, are facing delayed crops even after the start of the rainfall activities. For, he argued, less amount of humidity around them rob the tea bushes of their capacity to sprout new buds and leaves speedily. This delay in crop production can be prevented with irrigation facilities, he asserted.
The issue is very much important for the State�s economy today as a large number of small tea growers have now joined the tea industry and their share in the total tea production of the State is around 35 per cent, argued the NETA chairman.
But irrigation has remained economically non-viable due to the tariff APDCL realises from the TEs against the power consumed by them for irrigating their plantations, he said.
The Tea Category tariff realised from the TES in this respect is very high. Energy charge for Tea Category per kWh is Rs 5.65 and the fixed charge realised under this category is Rs 230 per kVA, per month, he said.
On the other hand, energy charge for the Irrigation Category is Rs 5 per kWh and the fixed charge realised under this category is Rs 40 per kVA in a month, said Barkakoty.