Climate changes may affect tea production in Assam

Supratim Dey / Kolkata/

Guwahati July 07

Climatic changes in the Brahmaputra basin in near future may affect tea production in Assam, experts feel.

A “preliminary study” carried out by IIT-Guwahati on impact of climate change on water resources of Brahmaputra basin revealed that there will be significant changes in rainfall pattern and temperature of this basin.

“High intensity rainfall of shorter duration and longer dry spells will adversely affect flood and drought scenario of this region,” the study said. In reality, the region has been experiencing erratic and abnormal rainfall patterns for the last couple of years.

Rakesh Saini, executive director of Tea Board, said that water management in tea gardens had always been a complex art and science, involving effective drainage to avoid water logging and flooding in rainy days and ensuring water availability for irrigation in draughty season. He said that in the recent years, the climate change subject has assumed greater significance due to visibility of climate change footprints in this region.

Saini was speaking at a seminar, organised by Tea Board in association with IIT-Guwahati and North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), to discuss the IIT study.

“The geographical and time pattern of rainfall is changing erratically and temperatures are rising. These variations require revisiting the available techniques of water management in tea gardens. Indigenous, innovative and cost-effective techniques of harvesting rain water have become inescapable. The academic institution of national importance like IIT Guwahati can make valuable contribution in seeking these methods and technologies,” said Saini.

A study earlier conducted by the Tocklai Experimental Station (TES), based in Jorhat in Upper Assam, to gauge the impact of climatic changes on the tea industry too had revealed similar things. The study had found that the average minimum temperature in Assam had risen by 1 degree celsius in last 90 years, besides the region losing around 200 mm rainfall because of climatic changes.

“A study should be soon undertaken to know the rate of evaporation of moisture due to wind velocity and another study to know the soil texture for retention of water particularly in Golaghat and Karbi-Anglong districts of Assam,” said Jadoo Goswami, a senior tea consultant

Assam is the largest tea producing state of India and accounts for around 55 per cent of total tea produced in the country. Though Assam witnessed a bumper tea production in 2009, thus bringing the industry out of 10 years of recession, production took a hit last year due to excessive rainfall. From 499 million kg in 2009, the figure dropped to 480 million kg last year in Assam. Total tea production in India in 2010 was 966 million kg.

The tea gardens, said Bidyananda Barkakoty, chairman of NETA, had provided rainfall and other climatic data to IIT-Guwahati for undertaking the research work.

Speakers at the seminar included experts from IIT-Guwahati, such as Prof. A.K. Sarma, B.P.Chaliha, chair professor for water resources, a chair established by Union water resources ministry, Prof. S.K. Deb and PK Sarma, a field expert of climate change project, in addition to many tea planters from the state.