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Tea industry wants use of natural gas

- Lift-objection plea to Delhi

Jorhat, Dec. 18: The Assam tea industry will ask the ONGC to request the Union petroleum ministry to allow 22 tea factories falling under the no-development zone around Kaziranga National Park the use of natural gas.

As gas is a priority for the power sector, it cannot be diverted for other uses without the nod of the ministry.

The 22 units use fossil fuel, which had faced objections from the National Green Tribunal in a ruling on September 7 this year.

Following the ruling, the Assam Pollution Control Board on September 27 directed the gardens to close down or switch over to alternative sources of energy like natural gas for continuing operations.

Industry sources told The Telegraph that the initiative taken by the Tea Board and the Assam government to explore the possibility of running the factories on natural gas has come across a barrier.

To overcome it, the industry will have to request the ONGC to urge the Centre to relax one of the conditions of the petroleum ministry for supplying natural gas.

Sources said several meetings were held in the past three months on the issue with the Upper Assam commissioner S.I. Hussain at his office here, which was attended by representatives of Oil India Limited, Assam Gas Company Ltd, ONGC and tea plantersí organisations.

In the meeting held on November 5, the Assam Gas Company representatives proposed to distribute the gas if the same could be supplied by ONGC, with the participants also requested the AGCL to conduct a survey within one month on the requirement and feasibility of natural gas supply to the tea factories.

In the last such meeting held at the commissionerís office under the chairmanship of Hussain on December 14, the AGCL submitted a report on the survey conducted on the requirement of gas, which stated that 1.8 lakh standard cubic metre gas was required daily.

The Assam Gas Company has made a bidding through e-tender, floated by the ONGC for distribution of gas recently.

Hussain said the ONGC officials said they were in a position to supply 1.27 lakh standard cubic metre gas daily to AGCL if the contract was bagged by them.

The commissioner said he has asked various tea associations representing the affected gardens to request the Tea Board to take up the matter with the Centre through ONGC so that if AGCL wins the contract, it could supply natural gas to the factories.

On the other hand, the 22 gardens have filed a petition with the National Green Tribunal on October 31 and sought a one-year extension to get their factories converted to gas-based units.