Alipurduar: Heavy monsoons and flash floods in North Bengal and Bhutan have dealt a severe blow to the region's tea belt. The tea estates of this region are facing heavy challenges owing to rivers with sources in Bhutan. In particular, the tea plantations in the foothills of Bhutan have suffered extensive damage, with land and tea estates being submerged in the waters of the raging rivers. The tea gardens have demanded a joint river commission with Bhutan to combat such situations. Last Thursday, incessant rains in the Bhutan hills caused the rivers flowing through Terai and Dooars in North Bengal to swell. Flash floods hit the Kalchini and Madarihat Blocks of Alipurduar district and the Banarhat and Nagrakata Blocks of Jalpaiguri district, where the rivers from Bhutan meet. The rivers from the Bhutanese mountains caused massive destruction in these two districts.
The tea industry in these districts bore the brunt of the floods. Chinmay Dhar, the Chairman of the North Bengal chapter of the Tea Association of India (TAI), stated: "The tea plantations in the foothills of Bhutan have been severely damaged. The Pana River from Bhutan created a new stream and is now flowing through the middle of our member garden, Mech Para. In Mech Para garden, a division has been split into two parts due to the massive damage caused by the flood. Other plantations like Dalgaon, and Torsha adjacent to the Bhutan hills in Kalchini block have lost approximately 10-12 hectares of plantations, washed away by the flash floods."
Dhar added: "This year has been particularly challenging for our industry. Excessive heat during April, May, and June caused significant damage, and now the relentless rains and floods are hitting us hard. We are grateful for the support provided by the District administration and the Indian Army during this crisis. However, we also urgently call for the establishment of a separate active river commission with Bhutan to prevent future disasters like the current one, which may wash away most of the gardens in this region." "The relentless rainfall in the region has severely affected production in almost all tea gardens in the Dooars," said Sanjay Bagchi, the secretary of the Dooars Branch of the Indian Tea Association (DBITA). He mentioned that the workers' quarters have also suffered. The roads connecting the gardens with the outside world and the roads within the gardens were inundated. The total losses due to the flood are yet to be assessed.