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Coal crisis hits Barak tea estates

Silchar, July 25: The tea estates in the Barak valley districts in south Assam are reeling under a crisis following a ban by the National Green Tribunal on the “unscientific and unregulated” coal mining in Meghalaya in April.

The factories of Barak’s tea plantations with around 104 gardens are solely dependent on coal from Meghalaya with an annual requirement of around 1,20,000 tonnes to produce the strong-flavoured CTC tea.

As the tea estates in the Barak valley districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi are staring at the crisis, both the Surma valley branch of the Indian Tea Association and the Barak branch of the Tea Association of India have sought help from the Assam Small Scale Industrial Development Corporation to haul coal from the Northeast collieries of the Coal Authority of India even as these inputs are highly priced at Rs 8,500 a tonne at present.

The secretary of the Barak valley branch of the Indian Tea Association, Kalyan Mitra, today said his office was working on three different short-term options in a bid to ensure the survival of the tea industry in Barak valley.

These are importing coals from Upper Assam coalfields like Ledo, Margherita, Tipping and Borgolai, which have a stock of 3.13 million tonnes at present, buying coal from Karimganj district and getting the already extracted stocks from the Meghalaya coal mines in Jowai.

The fourth option for the tea estates is getting coal from the Guwahati coal depots at around Rs 1,100 a tonne, including transportation charges.

The owners of brick kilns in the Barak valley, numbering about 250, are also now staring at the prospect of a possible coal shortage.