KOLKATA: In its bid to make the Darjeeling cuppa less expensive, the government, along with the Tea Board of India, is trying to make use of renewable energy in the gardens of Darjeeling. Almost 20 gardens have showed interest and submitted their respective detailed project reports to the ministry of renewable energy (MNRE).

"We have received detailed project reports from gardens interested in having captive micro hydel generating units, which we forwarded to the MNRE. The latter has sought some changes in these DPRs and has asked the gardens to get a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the state government regarding use of those waterfalls within its gardens for hydel power generation," a Tea Board official said.

According to the official, Tea Board has asked Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) to inform the tea garden owners about the changes sought by MNRE. DTA informed that there are around 60 water heads in the Darjeeling gardens. There are around 87 tea gardens in Darjeeling now.

By using this renewable energy, the tea gardens can surely curtail their cost of production. Uninterrupted power supply is a genuine problem in that zone and the gardens entail huge expenses when they run operations on diesel. All these costs add to the tea prices.

"Already the Makaibari Tea Estate has prepared a project report and given it to the MNRE. Two others - Dooteriah and Kalej Valley Tea Estate and Rongmook Ceders - have started working on this project," said Bengal power and renewable energy department's chief adviser S P Gon Chaudhuri.

One of the niche Darjeeling Tea garden, Makaibari Tea Estate, has submitted its DPR to the MNRE and the department has asked it to seek NOC from Darjeeling Gorkha Hills Council (DGHC). "We plan to generate hydel power from river Rakti, which is running through our estate. We plan to generate 4 MW from it, which we will be able to use for our gardens and the surplus we can supply to the grid of West Bengal State Electricity Board for the adjoining villages," said Rajah Banerjee, owner of Makaibari Tea Estate.

He said once installed, this generating unit could help cut production costs by 5-6%. According to Gon Chaudhuri, it will cost Rs 60 lakh to install 100 KW micro hydel generating units in each tea garden. "The Centre will give Rs 15 lakh as subsidy."

Earlier, the West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation (WBGEDC) and the Tea Board had jointly mooted this proposal and submitted to the Centre. "We are playing the role of facilitator and coordinator in this project," said Roshni Sen, deputy chairman of Tea Board.

Source: Times of India