Birds, mammals & a frog found at 14000 feet

Birds, mammals & a frog found at 14000 feet
- Researchers find wealth of bio-diversity for the first time during a survey in an Arunachal wetland
Guwahati, Sept. 26: Wildlife researchers have discovered an amazing range of bio-diversity, including a toad at 4,200 metres (nearly 14,000 feet), tucked away among the high altitude wetland complex of Nagula in Tawang.
Field researchers of WWF-India (western Arunachal landscape), G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development of North East Unit (Itanagar), ornithologists along with local guides and forest department officials, who had carried out a baseline survey of Nagula wetland complex, have found nearly 70 birds and three species of mammals and an amphibian.
The survey, under the Saving Wetland Sky High project for documentation and conservation of high altitude wetlands, was conducted from August 24 to September 6.
“During the survey, the presence of rich avian assemblage, altogether 70 from the area have been sighted. Among the mammals, two mountain pikas and Himalayan marmot were found. A species of bufo (toad) has also been recorded,” Pijush Kumar Dutta landscape co-ordinator, Western Arunachal Landscape Conservation Programme, WWF-India, told The Telegraph.
Dutta said the species of bufo at an elevation of 4,200 metres has been recorded for the first time and it could be new to science. This toad has shorter limbs with nearly free toes and has red warts, black eyes and a pale yellow line on its back.
The pikas are small animals with short limbs, rounded ears, short tail and live on rocky mountains. The marmots are generally large ground squirrels.
Some of rare bird species sighted during the survey includes red-billed leiothrix, sand martin, Oriental white eye, chestnut-headed tesia, Hume’s warbler, grey-hooded warbler, black-faced laughingthrush, grey-headed fish eagle and Baer’s pochard.
Nagula wetland complex is situated in the north of the Tawang township of western Arunachal Pradesh, bordering Tibet.
The wetland complex comprises of more than 100 permanent alpine freshwater lakes at an altitude of 3,500 metres to 4,500 metres. The wetland complex, with all these lakes, acts as a reservoir for the Nyamjangchu river, an important tributary of the Manas.
“Of the 100 lakes, now we have complete documentation of 19 lakes for the first time. The survey has provides information on location of the existing lakes, its physicochemical properties as well as the flora and fauna in the wetland catchments,” he said.
This information related to these lakes will be put in the wetland directory of the western Arunachal Pradesh. Most of these wetlands act as reservoir for the three major rivers in West Kameng and Tawang districts — Tawangchu, Nyamjangchu and Kameng.
The army has administrative rights over the area. Some of the important lakes of the complex include Gribchang Tso, Panggang-Tang Tso, Thauliyum Tso, Choimechang and Jongatser.
“We have learnt the names of some of the lakes for the first time with help from experts from Tawang monastery,” Dutta said.
The wetlands are one of the most productive eco-systems in the biosphere and play a significant role in maintaining the ecological balance of a region. The Indian Himalayas harbours some of the spectacular and biologically rich wetlands of the world.
“Considering that the area is one of the most sought after destinations for tourists who visit Tawang and based on the information collected during the survey, an action plan for the management of these lakes jointly with 190 Mountain Brigade at Tawang and the state forest department will be developed,” Dutta said.
Four wetland complexes have been prioritised for conservation — Bhagajang wetland complex, Nagula wetland complex, Thembang Bapu community conserved area wetland complex and Pangchen Lumpo Muchat community conserved area wetland complex by WWF-India jointly with the army and the state forest department, Tawang monastery and local villagers.
“All these high altitude wetlands have connection with the Buddhist culture and traditions and its fringing pastures serves as a grazing ground for the large fleet of sheep and yak population,” Dutta said.



dibru sailkhowa in downstream

Dam impact study on park

Guwahati, Sept. 19: The Union ministry of environment and forests has asked Jaypee Group to include the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Assam for the downstream impact study of the 2,700-MW Lower Siang hydroelectric dam.
The Lower Siang project has been allocated to Jaypee Group by the Arunachal Pradesh government on build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) basis for 40 years after its commissioning.
The issue was discussed at the 40th meeting of expert appraisal committee for River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects of the ministry of environment and forests last month in New Delhi.
Sources said the committee had received a representation from the project proponent of Jaypee Group wherein they requested to drop the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Tinsukia and Jamjing and Sengajan reserve forest in Dhemaji from the downstream impact study as these are located downstream of the confluence of river Siang with the Brahmaputra.
The hydroelectric project, near Bodak, 23km from Pasighat, the headquarters of East Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, is at a distance of 55km from Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
“The impact of the Lower Siang dam on the hydrology of the Brahmaputra was discussed in the meeting and it was consciously felt that the river is influenced by significant contribution from Lohit and Dibang rivers. The operational pattern of dams on Lohit and Dibang may influence the flow in the Brahmaputra, particularly in the downstream Dibru-Saikhowa National Park,” one of the sources said.
The ministry, however, agreed to the request of the company to exclude Jamjing and Sengajan reserve forest from the downstream impact study, as it is 100km downstream and will have insignificant impact on the project.
Environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh had recently said comprehensive and cumulative environment impact assessment, comprehensive river basin studies and comprehensive bio-diversity assessment should be carried out for any project to be cleared.
The committee had received a large number of representations from various organisations which said the downstream impact has not being studied for the site specific case of the Brahmaputra and the technical evaluation committee of Central Electricity Authority has not considered the environmental sensitivity of this project.
The organisations in their representation had said the project would seriously impact Daying Ering wildlife sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, which is also an Important Bird Area, affecting its seasonal breeding area.
The committee said the study should also incorporate and describe change in flood character in the downstream area during construction and operation.
, including when sediment is released from the dam on annual or whatever basis, impact of sediment trapped behind the dam on the downstream ecology and geomorphology of Siang.
The Environmental Impact Assessment report for the project has said the project activities would have direct impact on nearly 6,424-hectare land, which is proposed for the acquisition for various project components like submergence, road construction, dam structure, labour camps, colonies and others.
The proposed dam would inundate an area of 51.51 square km alongside Siang, Siyom and Yamne rivers in Arunachal Pradesh.

NHPC firm on subansiri dam

NHPC firm on design
- Official allays fears on Subansiri dam safety
Guwahati, Sept. 18: The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation has made it clear that with just two years left for commissioning of the first three units of the 2000MW Subansiri lower hydroelectric project, there’s no room for any structural changes to the dam — a move recommended by an expert committee.
“It will not be practically feasible to redesign the dam project which is now just two years away from commissioning,” NHPC CMD S.K. Garg told The Telegraph yesterday.
Garg visited the project site at Gerukamukh today and interacted with project officials and residents.
He said the NHPC would examine and act upon the other recommendations of the expert committee.
An eight-member expert committee, comprising scholars from Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University and IIT Guwahati, had recommended a thorough review and redesign of the 115-metre high dam.
The NHPC team discussed various issues with the expert committee on Thursday with the aim of narrowing the differences and coming up with a viable solution.
“We are open and flexible, and corrective steps will be taken in the interest of people,” Garg said.
The NHPC has already informed the expert committee that dams like Bhakra Dam and Ranjit Sagar are performing satisfactorily.
Garg made it clear that “power or no power, there will be no compromise on safety and security.”
He said the corporation, which has 35 years of experience, is not new to the hydropower sector and had got all the clearances and taken the best of technical skill and advice before starting work on the project.
Three units of the Subansiri project are scheduled to be commissioned by March 2012 while the rest will be commissioned by the end of that year. The dam height has been reduced from 275 metres to 115 metres. Further reduction in height has been ruled out.
“If there are perceptions that there will be problems due to the dam, the corporation will address them if they are justifiable, and will take remedial steps,” Garg said.
Downstream impact of the project also figured in the discussion. Garg said this was a completely new issue and the corporation was dealing with it for the first time. “But we were the first to commission a study,” he added.
“The estimated project cost when it comes to the stage of commissioning will be between Rs 8,000-9,000 crore.” 


kouna for bigger market

Reed craft eyes larger market

Guwahati, Sept. 17: The kouna (reed) handicrafts of Manipur are all set to get a foothold in the national market.

The Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship, Guwahati, which has been working on a cluster development approach, has chalked out a strategy to provide the handicraft a national market by approaching big brands.

Kouna, a reed variety found only in Manipur, has been the source of development of a localised craft.

The IIE had also developed a cluster at Khangabok of Thoubal district across three villages located within a radius of 5km.

The cluster has a total of 250 households, which are engaged in making kouna products.

The items produced include ladies bags to chappals, hats, floor mats, cushions, chairs.

“With globalisation posing a challenge, the growth of clusters can not only lower the cost of production but can also give a thrust to accessing a wider market,” an IIE official said.

“The intervention in this cluster started from June last year and we found that products were mainly sold in the local market and were not exposed to the national market. Hence, for the development of this cluster, it became very essential to provide training on design to the artisans,” Sriparna Baruah of the Regional Resource Centre of Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship told The Telegraph.

She said a professional designer was engaged and a training programme was conducted to help develop new products.

“Earlier we saw that womenfolk in the cluster were not skilled enough but with our initiative they were trained to make at least 15 new designs, including both hats and bags. Soon after the training programme, they started practising making bags and hats with the newly taught designs,” she said.

Once the cluster products were developed, the Regional Resource Centre team took up an initiative to provide a national market and ANT, a retail store in Bangalore, was approached.

“Since then initiatives are on to approach big brands such as Fabindia to provide a bigger market,” she said.

The total annual production of different products manufactured in the cluster stands at 1,63,46,250 in number.
Kouna, once planted, can produce raw material for more than six to seven years if properly managed.
Awareness camps have been conducted to inform the artisans of the concept of the cluster approach, its benefits and crafts within the cluster.

The Centre had mandated the IIE to set up a Regional Resource Centre to promote the cluster development approach in the region.

The centre has its nodal office on the premises of IIE, Guwahati, with state centres in the rest of the seven states across the region with a holistic approach toward capacity building.


six years later, packaging centre still in dream

Packaging unit elusive
Guwahati, Sept. 13: Six years have passed by and a central packaging centre to provide modern packaging facilities for the existing and the upcoming processing units in the Northeast still remains a distant dream.
The project was first conceived in 2003-04 by the North Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation (Neramac). The Indian Institute of Packaging under the ministry of commerce which offers post-graduate diploma in packaging is, however, planning to open a satellite centre here by next year. It will initially be involved in imparting training before including laboratory facilities and other services.
“Food processing is often branded a sunrise industry. Though this industry has a bright prospect in the region, there is hardly any infrastructure created for its development as yet. Based on the abundant availability of fruits like pineapple, oranges, passion fruits in the region, food processing has been identified as a thrust industry. There is an urgent need to provide modern packaging facilities for the already existing as well as the upcoming processing units,” a Neramac source said. Neramac has proposed to set up a central packaging centre near Guwahati to provide assistance to the existing small-time food processors and build a common brand name for marketing their products.
The ministry of food processing in 2003-04 said they could provide support up to Rs 4 crore and had asked Neramac to find out other forms of support, but the project has been gathering dust since then. The Agricultural and Processed Food products Export Development Authority had also once showed interest.
A meeting of the non-lapsable central pool of resources committee, under the DoNER ministry held recently in New Delhi, has decided to consider the project for detailed examination. The DPR for the project on a central packaging centre has been prepared and will be sent to state government this week.
The project which was to come up at Guwahati earlier will now come up at Chaygaon in Kamrup, for which Neramac has already requisitioned for a plot of land. The plot of land is 1.5 bighas and in-principle approval has been given for the land.

lower dam height, save forests

Lower dam, Jindal told

- Delhi bid to save forests from submergence in Arunachal


Guwahati, Sept. 9: The ministry of environment and forests has asked Jindal Power Ltd to lower the height of the 460-metre Subansiri Middle Hydro Electric Project in Arunachal Pradesh to save the bulk of the forest area from submergence.

This was decided at the 40th meeting of the expert appraisal committee for river valley and hydroelectric projects under the ministry in the third week of August.

“We have been asked to review the height of the project,” Jindal Power Ltd CEO V.K. Abbey told The Telegraph today. He said steps were being taken to adhere to the Centre’s directive.

The project with 8 units of 200MW each is being executed by Subansiri Hydro Electric Power Company Ltd — a joint venture of Jindal Power Ltd and Hydro Power Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh Limited (a government of Arunachal Pradesh enterprise). The project is on the Kamla river near Tamen village in Lower Subansiri district.

The project was allotted by Arunachal Pradesh in August 2009 after the Supreme Court’s order of July 10 last year which said any proposal in the upper stream of the Subansiri would be considered independently as and when submitted by the proponents.

There is already a lot of opposition to dams in the Northeast with student organisations and pressure groups calling for a complete halt to construction.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh is coming on a two-day tour of Guwahati and Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh for two public hearings on big dams tomorrow.

On the adverse effects of the Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project in Assam, Ramesh had said last month, “I cannot assure that the project will be stopped but I will take all necessary measures to ensure there is no adverse effect in the downstream area.

An expert appraisal committee on the project said submergence since the dam would submerge a very large forest area — 2,867 hectares to be precise — it was advised that the developer should consider reducing the submergence area, dam height and optimise the project. The company said of the 2,867 hectares facing submergence, only 1,333 hectares are covered with forests.

The committee also pointed out that issues like energy conservation measures, landscaping of quarry sites and others are missing in the environmental management plan submitted and the company has been asked to include it when they submit the report the next time.

It suggested setting up of few more rain gauge stations in the Kamla basin to get more rainfall data so that it can be reviewed at the time of giving environment clearance.

The project is scheduled to be commissioned in 2017-18 and the estimated project cost is Rs 11,203 crore.


tea industry in karbi anglong under fear from rebels

Rebels force shutdown
- Extortion, threats hit production in Karbi gardens; clamour over Puja cash intensifies
Guwahati, Sept. 8: The tea gardens in Karbi Anglong are being forced to shut down by militants which could lead to loss of livelihood of thousands of workers.
There are about 40 small and medium gardens in the hill district.
The North Eastern Tea Association, representing the medium and marginal tea producers of the region, has informed the central and state authorities about a complete breakdown of law and order in Karbi Anglong where militants are closing down tea estates by issuing threats to labourers and other employees.
The association yesterday sent a memorandum to Union home minister P. Chidambaram and to Assam police. The association is a constituent member of the Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations. Most of the tea gardens of Karbi Anglong are its members.
“There have been instances when militants have forcibly closed down the tea estates by threatening the labourers and other employees, jeopardising their livelihood and creating an atmosphere of unrest. Frequent disruptions in tea cultivation will result in complete chaos in tea-plucking process, making the entire operation unviable and uneconomical,” the chairman of the association, Bidyananda Barkakoty, said.
The memorandum alleged that a faction of the Karbi Longri NC Hills Liberation Front was still creating havoc in the tea gardens, abducting employees and issuing extortion threats. Sources said while the main body of the KLNLF had surrendered in February this year, about 30 rebels had stayed back and this group is suspected to be involved in the threats and attacks.
“Though you are well aware of the adverse law and order situation in Karbi Anglong district in general for the past several years, the situation has turned from bad to worse during the recent past, particularly after the surrender of the militant groups,” the memorandum stated.
“As tea is a labour-oriented industry and closure of the tea estates in Karbi Anglong will affect the livelihood of hundreds of workers which may in turn lead to a different law and order problem,” the association said.
It has requested the authorities to urgently look into the matter and provide security to the tea garden areas of Karbi Anglong district.
The association stated in its memorandum that the militants had abducted an employee of Bhagawati Tea Estate (Shakambari division) in Karbi Anglong from the garden at gunpoint on August 31 noon and were demanding a huge ransom.
The tea estate is under Barpathar police station of Bokajan subdivision in Karbi Anglong.
While the tea estate’s proprietor M.D. Khetan is yet to respond, the militant group had closed down operations of the garden on September 2 by threatening the labourers.
The Bhagawati Tea Estate has its own factory which produces five lakh kg of made tea.
“In September, the garden produces about 10,000 kg of green leaf daily. The present rate of green leaf is Rs 18 per kg. Therefore, the daily loss in green leaf amounts to Rs 1,80,000. We need to pay Puja bonus after 10 days. If the garden is closed, from where will we pay the bonus and the wages? If we do not pay, this will create a different law and order problem,” a source in the garden said.
Around 7.30pm on September 6, militants has shot at the owner of Dhanseri Tea Estate, Angshuman Das. A bullet hit him in the thigh and he was shifted to Golaghat Civil Hospital. Dhanseri garden is also located under Barpathar police station.
Karbi Anglong superintendent of police K.K. Sarma said a small faction of the KLNLF, which is still in the forest, was behind the incident. “The faction is still active in the bordering Bokajan subdivision where these gardens are located. Our search operation is on,” he added.


women save manas forests

Women turn to jam to help save Manas forest
- Families on park’s fringe make jelly from garden fruits to lessen dependence on trees
Guwahati, Sept. 6: Womenliving on the fringe of Manas National Park are making jams and jellies from home-grown fruits and vegetables to win the dual battle over poverty and deforestation.
The enterprise, that began with encouragement from an NGO, Aaranyak, is successfully weaning people from chopping valuable trees in the national park as a means of sustenance.
Women are Aaranyak’s target group, who are growing fruits and vegetables in their backyard and then being trained to process and preserve them as jams, jellies and pickles.
“Poverty compels these people to bank heavily on forest resources found in Manas National Park for their livelihood, which is detrimental to conservation initiatives,” said Namita Brahma, a conservation leader with Aaranyak who began the initiative to make the women self-reliant.
The NGO trained 136 women from 28 fringe villages in food processing and preservation in two phases, with help from the Bodoland Territorial Council and Manas Ever Welfare Society, a local NGO from Bansbari.
The first phase of the training was organised in Bhuyanpara area of Manas National Park from September 6-10 last year.
The next phase of training was organised at Bansbari range of the park from August 27-30 this year.
“The results have already started showing. One of the most significant outcomes of the initiative is that of the 80 women trained in 2009, 22 women from five villages have formed a self-help group — Maidangshree — and have begun producing a variety of processed food products like jam, jelly and pickle. With an initial investment of Rs 6,000, they have earned Rs 14,000 in three months, with a net profit of Rs 8,000,” Brahma said.
The women are only too happy.
One of the active members of this successful group Krishna Basumatary said: “We are very lucky and happy to receive the food processing and preservation training. This has helped us to become independent and showed us a new means for earning our livelihood,” said Krishna Basumatary.
Papaya jelly, banana jelly, jelly made from jack fruit skin, grape fruit juice, brinjal pickle,ou tenga pickle and bel squash are some of Maidangshree’s products.
“The plan is to get them a good marketing channel so that they can get a bigger market,” Brahma said.


Sohliya strawberries say bye to California

Sohliya strawberries to shed California tag
- Seeds germinated in hi-tech nursery in the village to cost 50% less & ensure timely delivery
Guwahati, Sept. 6: The luscious strawberries grown in the picturesque Sohliya village of Meghalaya’s Ri Bhoi district are ready to abandon their California “tag”.
A hi-tech nursery in the village, with support from the ministry of panchayati raj, will henceforth germinate strawberry seeds locally.
“The farmers were facing problems in buying seedlings at very high cost and that, too, with uncertain delivery and timing. The panchayati raj ministry was approached for providing support for a hi-tech nursery for germinating strawberry seedlings and it accepted,” said head of the Regional Resource Centre at Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship Sriparna Baruah, who is looking after the project.
California produces the best quality strawberry seedlings in the world and all the countries are dependent on them.
But in an effort to shed the dependency, altogether 5,000 mother plants have been planted. Each mother plant will produce 20 seedlings on an average. These will be sold to the farmers at Rs 7 to Rs 8, which is about 50 per cent cheaper than the imported ones.
“The best thing is that the seedlings will be available during the proper season for plantation,” Baruah said.
“At the present rate of growth, this nursery will be able to meet the seedling demand generated in the area in future” she said.
Sohliya village, 24km from Nongpoh and 26km from Shillong, is a hub of strawberry production in Meghalaya. With climate conducive to their growth, this area has seven hectares of land under strawberry cultivation with around 300 farmers engaged in this activity.
In 2009, the total production of strawberries in the area was only 125 tonnes, almost half the average production of the area which is around 250 to 300 tonnes per season. The seedlings, which are required to be planted by September, are procured from California at Rs 17 each. These mature and bear fruit by November.
Most of the time, the seedlings arrive late in the season. Last year, of the planned 4.5 lakh seedlings, only 3.2 lakh arrived, and that too, in November. On planting, this resulted in fruiting in January when rain and hailstorms destroyed a huge proportion of the produce.
The strawberries, that are graded according to their size, are categorised into A, B and C segments, where A is the biggest and C the smallest size. The farm price of each is Rs 120, Rs 110 and Rs 90 per kg respectively.
The market price of grade A ranges between Rs 300 and Rs 320 per kg and that of grade B Rs 240 and Rs 260 per kg.
The Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship had identified the area as a potential location for the rural business hub project of the panchayati raj ministry. Under this initiative and through the public-private-partnership mode, a memorandum of understanding was signed between IIE, the village council, the state horticulture department, Seuji Agroprocessing and Services Pvt Ltd (a business house) and the Ri Bhoi Strawberry Growers Association early this year.
“Under this initiative, Seuji joined as the market partner with 100 per cent buyback assurance and also agreed to provide packaging material to the farmers,” Baruah said.
Following this intervention, the production volume is set to surpass 400 tonnes and the fruits would get more time to be marketed properly, she added. Farm prices are likely to drop by around 20 per cent, thereby lowering the market price by another 15 to 20 per cent. This would translate into a price reduction of Rs 50 to Rs 60 per kg.
“Farmers are now being encouraged to produce strawberry wine, jam and jelly as additional income generating options,” Baruah said.
Hemanta Rabha of the Meghalaya office of Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship said there would be no difference in the quality after the going away of the Californian seedlings. “The hi-tech nursery will take care of the quality and will be very good,” he said.
The plantations in this village have been going on for 15-odd years now.


conflict cells for jumbos in assam

Conflict-control cells for jumbos
- Centre recommends task forces for Sonitpur and Majuli
Guwahati, Sept. 5: The Elephant Task Force of the Union ministry of environment and forests has called for setting up of conflict management task forces in Sonitpur and Majuli, the two places in Assam that are witness to the highest incidents of human-elephant conflict.
The move has been necessitated as the task force favours a permanent mission with innovative methods to prevent more deaths in high-conflict zones.
The conflict management task force will be funded by the proposed National Elephant Conservation Authority and there will be a permanent/long-term programme to reduce continual conflicts.
The task force must include a biologist with expertise on elephants in the region, an animal welfare specialist, a wildlife veterinarian, an expert of rural socio-economic issues/social scientist, elected representatives, the regional chief conservator of forests and a representative of the revenue or civil department.
The territorial wing of the forest department will be fully associated with the process.
In July, four persons were killed by elephants in Majuli. That month in Sonitpur district, three persons were trampled to death by elephants in Biswanath Reserve Forest.
Between 2007 and 2009, as many as 166 people were killed by elephants.
Figures show an increasing trend with deaths of 44 people in 2007, 52 in 2008 and 70 last year.
A report by the Elephant Task Force was submitted to the Union minister of environment and forests Jairam Ramesh in New Delhi on August 31.
The report was prepared to secure a future for the elephant, its survival in the wild and care in captivity.
Sources associated with the making of the report said the setting of the conflict management task force would take some time and a lot of fieldwork required to be done.
The report says that short drives which basically focus on driving elephants deeper into the forest or away from a particular village often serve little purpose as elephants either return or stray into the next village, causing problems.
“This approach can be used to placate people in a crisis situation, but cannot be used as a routine human-elephant conflict mitigation measure in any area as the real need is more lasting solutions,” it says.
It is often alleged that officials are not easily accessible to cultivators and other villagers affected by elephants and damage to crops by herds.
The report has recommended that public hearings be held at least twice a year at the local level.
These could be chaired by the local MLA and the presence of not only the wildlife wing and territorial wing staff but also the revenue and civil authority is mandatory.
These public consultations at the local level are a must particularly in high-conflict areas.
Acknowledging the importance of human elephant conflict, the report says that more than half the expenditure incurred by Project Elephant under the 10th Five Year Plan is for human-elephant conflict mitigation.
Another 15 to 20 per cent is spent on payment of ex gratia and compensation for loss of property or crops.

orthodox tea showing the way

Planters push for subsidy
- Industry makes case for orthodox tea
Guwahati, Sept. 1: With orthodox tea reaping good dividend, the industry has called for continuation of the orthodox subsidy scheme till the end of the Twelfth Plan (2017).
The Indian Tea Association (ITA) has urged the ministry of commerce not only to continue the scheme but also strengthen it by increasing the subsidy from Rs 3 per kg to Rs 5 per kg.
The production of orthodox tea has also increased by 2 million kg from last year’s figure of 106.4 million kg and this can be attributed to the subsidy scheme to some extent, sources said.
A senior official of Assam tea industry said while the subsidy, which was introduced in 2005, had been extended to the Eleventh Plan (2007-2012), the Union government had in 2009 proposed a mid-term evaluation of the scheme, which had completed four years.
A consultancy firm, AC Nielsen, was appointed to carry out the mid-term evaluation and the lTA, among other stakeholders, submitted a detailed memorandum to it on the issues that needed to be addressed. The ITA suggested a multi-pronged approach to sustain orthodox production and encourage capacity-building and new entrants into orthodox manufacture, the official said.
“The firm presented its report to the Tea Board, clearly recommending the need to continue the (subsidy) scheme as it had made good progress,” the official added.
The ITA also suggested that soft loans should be given at a reasonable rate of interest and a higher subsidy of upto 40 per cent be provided under the special tea purpose fund for re-plantation of selected quality orthodox planting materials.
Sources said the Tea Board is said to have faced severe constraints in fund flow from the government during 2009-10 and disbursements under several schemes had to remain pending. No subsidy has, therefore, been reimbursed under the orthodox scheme of 2009-10 and some disbursements of 2008-09 may also be pending.
The tea industry official said given the monetary position, there could be recasting of the scheme, giving priority to segments like bought leaf factories and new entrants while the existing orthodox manufacturers may have to be compromised or put on low priority.
He said adequate care should be taken while encouraging the bought-leaf sector, as it neither had the expertise nor access to quality green leaf for the manufacture of good orthodox tea. He cautioned that this could lead to “more inferior orthodox tea, thereby, affecting the quality and image of Indian tea”. He also said the Tea Board should clearly specify the identity of new entrants.
Making a case for giving priority to existing orthodox tea manufacturers while providing subsidy, he said this was necessary to protect and maintain their existing production level through which India has made recent inroads into the international market. “lf the subsidy is withdrawn, producers facing market fluctuations and risk may switch over to CTC tea, adversely affecting export availability to the detriment of lndian tea exports,” he added.