Rain wreaks havoc in Dooars tea gardens
Incessant rain and rivers in spate have flooded over 150 tea plantations in the Dooars, destroying leaves, eroding cultivated land, hampering growth of plants and affecting production in factories because of frequent power cuts.
The heavy rain that has sent water streaming into quarters of workers has pushed up absenteeism in the gardens, further hobbling production. The affected gardens are mostly in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar districts.
Tea industry sources said the rain-fed rivers close to the gardens had swelled and spilled into the estates, inundating vast areas and also causing erosion of plantation soil.
“In the past couple of days, the garden areas of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar have received around 250 to 300mm of rainfall. The rain and the inundation caused by the rivers and streams have also submerged workers’ quarters. Large portions of tea plantations are under water. Roads passing through tea estates have also got inundated. Everyone, from the management to the workers, has been inconvenienced,” said S. Guha Thakurta, secretary of the Dooars branch of the Indian Tea Association.
The heavy rain, he said, has also affected the growth of tealeaves.
“Moreover, the rate of absenteeism has gone up as many workers are reluctant to join their duties because of the downpour and the inundation. We have come to know that in a number of gardens, no work has been done for the past two days,” Guha Thakurta said.
Power cuts have compounded the problem. The rainfall has affected electricity supply to the factories, which has hit the processing of tealeaves.
The Hatinala stream that flows through Banarhat in Jalpaiguri has eroded the soil on which tea bushes had been grown at the Choonabhutti estate.
“We fear that if immediate steps are not taken, it might hurt the factories of two other tea estates. The same stream has inundated around 100 hectares of tea plantation at the Telepara estate,” said a garden official.
Water has also accumulated on the Debpara estate in Banarhat and damaged tea bushes spread over 100 hectares.
In Alipurduar, the Newlands, Mechpara and Beech estates have reported similar damage. A garden road has been washed away in Rahimabad, forcing vehicles ferrying tealeaves from the plantations to the factory to take detours of over 50km.
“At Gairkata, around half the workers have not joined their duties. There is no power supply on the Phaskowa tea estate (in Alipurduar district) since Thursday night,” said a source.