Jorhat, March 5: At a time when the season’s first tea plucking take place, a dry spell, accompanied by unprecedented high temperatures, has dried up bushes, prompting garden managements to go for artificial irrigation.
The conditions have also induced pest attacks. “Although it is time for the first flush, there is no leaf in the tea bushes in my garden. We can no longer depend on the rain god and have to take up artificial irrigation,” a manager of a tea estate in Golaghat district, which is one of the worst affected, told The Telegraph today.
He said not only have tea bushes dried up in large patches because of lack of rain, pest attacks have also increased manifold.
The state has hardly witnessed rainfall since November and the continuous dry spell has taken its toll on the tea industry. While there was 6.5mm rainfall in December, it rained only 0.5mm in January and 9.3 mm in February.
There has also been an increase of about 2 degrees Celsius in the temperature compared to the last year during the same period. The average maximum temperature recorded in February this year was 27.7 degrees Celsius while last year it was 25.7 degree Celsius. Yesterday, several parts of the state recorded 34 degrees Celsius, which is six degrees more than normal at this time of the year.
A scientist at the Assam Agricultural University said there has been an unprecedented rise in temperature, accompanied by the dry spell. The prevailing conditions were likely to continue for the next few days. “There is no rain in sight in the near future,” the scientist said.
He said the prevailing situation had affected the agricultural sector, especially the tea industry. “Tea production is likely to be affected this season.”
An official at the Indian Meteorological Division, Guwahati, said there was no moisture incursion over the Bay of Bengal, as a result of which there had been no rainfall in this region. “If moisture incursion takes place, then only can we expect rain,” he said.
Studies conducted at the Tocklai Experimental Station on climatic change have revealed that average annual rainfall was receding alarmingly in the region. It appears that in the last 92 years, more than 200mm of annual average rainfall has been lost. This decrease in rainfall is also observed in the active production season (April to October) of tea.
A study conducted by the Tocklai Experimental Station said the minimum temperature on an average had also risen at many places by a degree Celsius to 1.5 degrees Celsius over the last nine decades. At the same time, a decrease in maximum temperature in the active production phase has been observed.
A scientist at the Tocklai Experimental Station said the impact of climate change might aggravate in the near future and have a severe impact on the tea plants.
Tocklai, he said, has been working with several prominent institutions around the world vis-à-vis ITC, the Netherlands, and Cranfield University in the UK, to work out strategies for the tea plants to withstand the climatic changes. “Artificial irrigation will be a necessity for tea gardens in the region,” he said.