Tea factories in 'No Development Zones' to go green in Assam Supratim Dey / Kolkata/ Guwahati Oct 09, 2012, 00:21 IST
All tea factories in Assam which are situated within ‘No Development
Zones’ (NDZ) as well as in the range of 500 metres from the coordinates
of NDZs will soon have to go green or else will face closures. The
Pollution Control Board of Assam (PCBA) has asked these factories to use
natural gas as fuel instead of burning fossil fuels. Consequently, the
PCBA has directed the Assam Gas Company Limited (AGCL) to arrange supply
of natural gas to these tea factories on priority basis within November
This directive of PCBA is in compliance with the judgement of
National Green Tribunal, dated September 7, 2012, which asked the former
to ensure that no tea processing unit burn fossil fuel to run factories
within NDZ and take immediate steps to stop their operations. The
judgment was aimed at protecting the ecology in Kaziranga National Park
and in its vicinity, which is highly eco-sensitive.
There are at least 22 tea processing units, in addition to 64 other
factories, which have been affected by the judgment of the National
Green Tribunal. To switch to natural gas as fuel, the tea factories will
be required to make investment of Rs. 15 to 30 lakh, depending of the
size and capacity of the factory.
“We are very much worried because it encompasses 22 tea factories
manufacturing 22 million kgs of tea annually involving the fate of more
than 40,000 workers and more than 3,000 small tea growers are dependent
on these tea factories by way of supplying green leaf”, said Bidyananda
Barkakoty, chairman of North Eastern Tea Association (NETA).
"The tea factories use coal normally in their boilers. The sulphur
content of such coal is very high and the air pollution therefrom could
pose a great threat to environment,” observed the Tribunal.
The focal point of the judgement a notification dated way back in
1996 of the Union ministry of environment and forests declaring an area
of 15 km around Numaligarh Refinery as a “No Development Zone”. This
notification has been in disuse since inception and instead a number of
industrial undertakings, infrastructural facilities, townships etc. have
all along come up in the area with the express approval of the
concerned authorities of both the central and state governments.
However, the tea industry as welcomed the directive of PCBA and urged
AGCL to take immediate steps to supply natural gas to these factories.
“We earnestly request the AGCL and the state government to take
immediate steps so that the concerned tea factories are supplied with
natural gas within the stipulated time”, said Rajib Barooah, chairman of
Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA).