Tea draft to tap new energy sources

Siliguri, Jan. 28: The West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation, in association with the Tea Board of India, has decided to draft a package to promote the use of renewable and eco-friendly energy sources in the tea estates of north India.

The corporation hopes such a package would help curb pollution and promote conservation of orthodox fuel and energy sources like coal, diesel and electricity.

The decision to formulate the programme aimed at developing the practice of using renewable energy in gardens was taken at a meeting attended by the officials of the tea board and the corporation and secretary of the Union ministry of new and renewable energy Deepak Gupta in Calcutta on January 23.

“In the package, there will be proposals for development of micro-hydel projects in the tea plantations, use of energy generated from leaves and dry biomass instead of diesel, wood, coal and electricity in brew processing units,” S.P. Gon Choudhuri, the managing director of the corporation, said over the phone from Calcutta today.

“If the tea gardens in the Terai and the Dooars, which get good sunlight, can use machines fitted to solar panels to dry processed tealeaves, the existing resources will be saved and pollution will be mitigated to a large extent,” said Choudhuri.

According to him, implementation of these proposals in tea estates can reduce the use of orthodox energy resources and fuels upto 60 per cent and will substantially cut down overheads.

“In a number of tea estates in Darjeeling hills and Assam, there are streams and waterfalls which can be used to generate power sufficient for the garden. However, impediments like capital expenditure for the projects need to be removed by means of subsidies from the Centre and the corporation,” said the official. “We are assessing the tentative costs of the project, extent of benefits that can be reaped from the scheme, subsidies available and obviously the tentative investment by gardens.”

The project has been envisaged for brew belts like Darjeeling, the Terai and the Dooars in Bengal and the entire tea zone of Assam.

Stakeholders of the industry, who were present at the meeting, have appreciated the move.

“By using alternative fuels and renewable energies, it is natural that production costs would come down. If there are subsidies, the industry can feel attracted to the projects that will minimise costs, pollution as well as hazards involved in collecting fuel. We welcome the effort and look forward to see the package being formulated,” said Monojit Dasgupta, secretary-general of the Indian Tea Association.