scorecardresearch
Follow Us:
Sunday, July 03, 2022

Choked of coal, Tripura tea industry looks for alternatives

The crisis of coal in Tripura started following a Supreme Court embargo on coal mining in Meghalaya two years back.

Written by Debraj Deb | Agartala |
Updated: September 28, 2018 8:34:03 pm
Choked of coal, Tripura tea industry looks for alternatives Tripura’s tea industry started 102 years with the Hiracherra tea estate. Now the state has 58 operational tea gardens, among which 42 are individually owned, 13 are operated under cooperative societies, and three are run by Tripura Tea Development Corporation.

Struggling from the shortage of coal supplies, tea growers in Tripura are now turning towards ‘Biomass briquette’, a coal substitute made of recycled sawed wood dust, bamboo dust, incense stick waste and other waste products. The crisis of coal in Tripura started following a Supreme Court embargo on coal mining in Meghalaya two years back.

Haflongcherra Tea Estate manager Satyanarayan Pande told indianexpress.com that the shortage of coal could lead to closure of his garden. He said he has been testing ‘biomass briquettes’, an organic low-cost substitute to coal which has turned out fine so far. “

We needed 50,000 kg coal every month for processing tea leaves plucked from our gardens alone. Supply of coal from Meghalaya has been on the wane over the past two years. It has further thinned since this July. We started using biomass briquette on experimental basis two weeks back and have been able to reduce use of coal by 50 percent,” Pande said. He said if traders supply A-grade coal, which is hard to come by in Tripura, proper temperature for tea-drying process can be maintained with only 25 per cent of what is used now and the rest can replaced with biomass briquette.

‘Biomass briquettes’, an organic low-cost substitute to coal, has turned out fine so far.

The ban on coal mining in Meghalaya was imposed by the Supreme Court on a petition over rat hole mining. The National Green Tribunal (NGT), which is the national apex environmental agency, finally dismissed the petition in August this year saying rat hole mining can continue, pending approval from the Supreme Court. But with the ban still on, the flow of coal from Meghalaya has stopped.

Best of Express Premium
There are no stars anymore, says Karan Johar. Why he is rightPremium
Get inspired: Why did Sardar Patel say that civil servants must not take ...Premium
NITI Aayog-commissioned report which studied 3 orders by Supreme Court, 2...Premium
Inside Track: Amit Shah’s strategy for Maharashtra and FadnavisPremium

The tea industry is the worst-hit so far. “We usually have three days of coal stock with us. If we have to depend fully on coal in existing conditions, we shall have to lock down on the fourth day,” Pande said.

Ramkrishna Debnath, an entrepreneur who makes biomass briquettes at a small unit in the Bodhjungnagar industrial estate, said: “I used to manufacture incense sticks. There was always a huge amount of waste and I tried to utilise it somehow. I researched on the possibility and came up with the idea of making biomass briquettes by recycling rice husk, bamboo dust, sawed wood dust, waste from his incense stick factory among other ingredients.” However, he said people are still doubtful about the product.

Diganta Barman, Assistant Director of Tea Board of India, said the Biomass briquette needs to pass tests before industrial application. “This could work if it satisfies the quality standards on calorific value, smoke emission, heating capacity and other issues. Tests will commence shortly,” Barman said.

Tripura’s tea industry started 102 years with the Hiracherra tea estate. Now the state has 58 operational tea gardens, among which 42 are individually owned, 13 are operated under cooperative societies, and three are run by Tripura Tea Development Corporation (TTDC).

Around 3,000 small tea growers also run their tea gardens with government support and 6,885 hectare land is now under tea cultivation in Tripura. According to estimates, the state registered 3.58 crore kg green tea leaf production annually which are processed in 23 factories across the state. But with coal crisis looming large, only 19 factories out of 23 are functional now.

As per official records of the TTDC, tea industry in the state needs 9,000 metric tones of coal per year. TTDC chairperson Santosh Saha explained that private agencies have always brought in coal and the government has purchased from them through tenders. “However, now the private suppliers are struggling to meet the demand.”

Officials from the Department of Taxes and Excise say only six trucks with 20 metric tonnes of coal each enters Tripura with official passage every month. This amounts to 1,440MT every year, much less than what is needed in the tea sector alone.

TTDC chairperson Santosh Saha said he is aware of the shortage of coal. He added said the corporation has been trying to use natural gas instead of coal as a viable alternative in tea drying factories.

Meanwhile, Manuvalley Tea Estate in Kailashahar of North Tripura district has applied for a gas connection to power its factory driers. But an executive at the tea estate say the gas pipelines never came.

Tripura has vast natural gas reserves which have fueled exploration rigs of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited as well as those of the NEEPCO since 1962.

JULY 4 SALE! Only for our international readers, monthly pricing starting at just $2.50

📣 Join our Telegram channel (The Indian Express) for the latest news and updates

For all the latest North East India News, download Indian Express App.

  • Newsguard
  • The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.
  • Newsguard
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement