TRA developing tea varieties to mitigate impact of climate change

Guwahati, Jan 30 (PTI) Climate resilient tea clones are being developed to mitigate the impact of climate change on tea production, Tea Board Chairman P K Bezbaruah said.

The Tea Research Association (TRA) is developing the clones which can sustain the rise in temperature and low rainfall in the tea producing areas of Upper Assam, Bezbaruah said at the Chevening Conversation on 'Climate Change and Impact on Tea' organised by the British Deputy High Commissioner here on Wednesday evening.

However, he pointed out that there cannot be any clone that can be completely climate resilient but ''we are working to ensure that maximum resilient clones can be used in the tea gardens''.

''The crux of the problem is the erratic weather pattern, particularly less rain in the monsoons. It is not that Assam has water shortage but there is a water scarcity in dry seasons and this is mainly due to rampant deforestation which has made the Brahmaputra river catchment areas more vulnerable'', he said.

He expressed concerns over areas being brought under tea cultivation by cutting down forests which has led to problems for the tea industry in the region.

''Tea is replacing large tracts of forests in the foothills of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh and large areas are being brought under cultivation in an unregulated manner. Tea may provide a green cover but it is no substitute for forests'', Bezbaruah said.

The destruction of habitat in the region is leading to an ecological crisis and its effects are being felt on the tea industry too, he added.

The Tea Board has taken initial steps to tackle the issue of climate change and is implementing a mitigation programme in partnership with the Korean organisation Global Green Growth Initiative (GGG), he said.

The British Deputy High Commissioner, Kolkata Nicholas Low pointed out that climate change is real and strategic mitigation and adaptation measures are needed to tackle its impact as ''what we do in the next 10 years will decide whether we do irreparable damage to planet earth or whether we can save it”.

Presently, the climate change is a defining issue and the UK is contributing to this by supporting efforts to build climate resilience through evidence-based research and policy-making, he said.

“The UK will host UNFCCC COP 26 in Glasgow in 2020 where building resilience of vulnerable ecosystems will be of immense importance. In the run up to COP 26, we are pleased to organise this Conversation to bring together relevant stakeholders and discuss strategies to address the related issues”, Low added.

West Bengal Conservator of Forests K Balamurugan, a Chevening alumnus, underlined the vulnerability of the Sunderbans delta area and the Brahmaputra riverine eco systems – both of which are climate change hotspots.

He pointed out that stopping deforestation and planting forests would bring down carbon emissions considerably and this was the most effective and inexpensive strategy to tackle climate change. PTI DG TIR SHW MR MR