Jorhat, March 22: Upper Assam’s long dry spell of almost four months has finally come to an end with heavy showers last night bringing cheer to everyone, especially the tea planters.
The Met department has predicted more rain in the next few days. Upper Assam received 19.8mm of rain last night and it rained almost the entire day today.
“The rains have come as a saviour for the tea planters. We can now expect new leaves in the tea bushes in the next few days. The rains have saved the lives of a number of tea bushes which were on the verge of drying up permanently,” a planter here said.
The tea industry has lost almost a month of the production season because of no rainfall. The dry spell robbed the tea bushes of new leaves. There were also reports of large patches of tea bushes drying up in several gardens. The situation was so bad in most parts of the state that some planters offered prayers to appease the rain god.
A planter said the industry would be able to make up for the delay as only about 15 per cent of the total production takes place during the first flush season of March to April.
A tea scientist, however, said the tea bushes have undergone severe moisture stress this season because of the prolonged dry spell.
Rain from November to March is crucial for tea bushes. Ideally, tea plantations should receive about 210mm of rainfall between November and March. But, in the current season, rainfall was very low and the deficit resulted in high moisture stress, adversely affecting the growth of tea bushes. While there was 6.5mm rainfall in December, it rained only 0.5mm in January and 9.3mm in February.
It was not only the tea industry that suffered because of the dry spell. There were also reports of shortage of potable water in many parts of the state.
“With most sources of water drying up in the rural areas, there has been a shortage of drinking water,” a public health department official here said.
The forest department had taken up the task of constructing two ponds inside the Gibbon wildlife sanctuary, as there was shortage of drinking water for the animals.
“The shower, we hope has refilled the water sources inside the sanctuary,” a forest department official said.