|Women dig wells along the Brahmaputra to collect drinking water at Jajimukh
in Jorhat on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos
Jorhat, March 13: Drought-hit tea gardens in Upper Assam are turning to the gods as the absence of rain has dried up large patches of tea bushes.
“We are organising a puja on Friday to appease the rain god. If there is no rain in the next few days, we are doomed. Patches of tea bushes have dried up as it has not rained in the past four months,” an executive of Heeleakah tea estate, along the Assam-Nagaland border near Mariani here, told The Telegraph today.
The season’s first tea plucking has begun with first flush this month.
The executive said the garden has started production with a few leaves, which have come up in portions of garden where there are irrigation facilities.
However, it was not possible to irrigate the entire garden.
“There is much less leaf to run the machines,” he said.
He said the garden also has to carry out re-plantation in at least six-seven sections as tea bushes have dried up completely.
“We will have to arrange irrigation facilities in the entire garden. But as of now only the rain god can save us from incurring a heavy loss,” he said.
The executive said the puja would be performed in the temple on the garden premises, attended by the employees.
Most of the gardens, which have no irrigation facilities, are set to incur heavy losses this season as a result of the ongoing dry spell.
Another executive of a tea estate at Golaghat district said his garden has not received a drop of rain in the past four months.
“We are totally dependent on the rain god as there are no irrigation facilities in our garden. We have not started plucking this season till today as there are no leaves to be plucked. We simply cannot make up for the loss even if there is rain in the next few days,” he said.
There is, however, good news for the tea planters if scientists at the Assam Agricultural University are to be believed.
A scientist at the university said rains would most likely start pouring by next week.
“It has rained in some parts of the state in the past couple of days but there will be heavy rain shortly,” he said, adding that there has been a change in the climatic condition in the past few years resulting in irregular and less rainfall.
“The agriculture sector, especially the tea estates, can no longer rely on rainfall,” he said.
The state has hardly witnessed rainfall since November last year.
While there was 6.5mm rainfall in December, it rained only 0.5mm in January and 9.3mm in February.
There has also been an increase of nearly two 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 degrees Celsius.