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Climate change brews multi-challenges for tea

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Guwahati: In the backdrop of the just-concluded COP21 talks in Paris, as nations across the world discussed ways to tackle the monster called climate change, back home, India’s favourite beverage, tea, is facing some major challenges as a result of it – from low yield to new pests.

Scientists at Assam’s Tocklai Tea Research Institute (TRI) say that erratic rainfall over the years is a major concern for the tea industry. The first flush – the early leaves which are delicate and have a gentle aroma – which is harvested mid-March, has been affected by the changing rain patterns.

R N Bhagat, one of the scientists at Tocklai, said: “In the last 100 years in Assam, we have lost around 22.1 cm of rainfall. With this decrease and a shift in rainfall distribution, the tea industry is losing the first flush that comes in March-April. Spraying of fertilizers is timed with the rainfall pattern, but with no rain, the fertilizers have no impact.”

Then again, with no rain, the relative humidity in March-April is also lowering, further affecting the first flush. “It used to be 80 percent, but in 2015 it was recorded around 52-54 percent,” Bhagat told IANS.

In a discussion organised by the Centre for Environment Education and The Third Pole under the Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme (IHCAP), Bhagat said that tea is a self-adapting plant and has been sustaining rising temperatures – the summer saw more than 35 degrees Celsius while tea grows ideally between 13-30 degrees C.

Even then, it cannot tackle all changes – like a spurt in new pests as a result of changing weather patterns.

N. Muraleedharan, director of Tocklai, said: “White flies is a new species of pest which has been reported mostly from the Assam belt. It is minute and travels in hoards. There has also been an increase in pests like thrips, tea mosquitoes, scale insects and green hoppers, as a result of which the intensity of damage on tea is more.”

“As a result of the change in weather patterns, there is a decrease in leaf quality too,” he went on to say.

What all of this translates into is production being affected. And to increase production, the tea managements generally use more chemicals, leading to more biotic stress on the plant. According to the scientists, there are two kinds of stress – abiotic (drought, flood) and biotic (pests and the like caused by flood and drought).

“This also means that the total production cost of the tea estates is increasing. Earlier Rs.4,000-5,000 was used for pesticides, per hectare. Now it has gone up to Rs.20,000-25,000. Irrigation costs have also increased,” Bhagat said.

With such multi-pronged challenges being thrown at tea by changing environmental conditions, scientists are now working on developing clones that would have the best chances of survival in the future.

“We have simulated future scenarios of climatic conditions, like higher carbon dioxide, and are looking at how tea plants behave. In one or one and a half years’ time, we should be able to announce future clones to the industry,” Bhagat said.

Scientists also developed a seed-stock that is drought resistant and released it in September on an experimental basis, which got good results.

The changing climatic conditions and more pests have also steered many gardens into adopting indigenous plants that naturally repel tea-harming insects. “In this matter, organic tea is much more climate resilient than the chemical version. And its demand is high too. But it is more expensive,” Muraleedharan said.

So, it is an uncertain future for the steaming cup of ‘chai’ in your hands. But, as experts keep brainstorming to keep the deluge of problems from the tea plants, the good news is that all hope is not lost. Not yet. (Azera Rahman, IANS)

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Prince Charles Arrives in New Delhi for two day Visit to Meet PM Narendra Modi

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, accompanied by his wife arrived New Delhi for a two-day visit to India to complete their 10-day four-nation tour

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Prince Charles
Prince Charles visits India with his wife for two days. Wikimedia.

New Delhi, Nov 9: Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, accompanied by his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles, arrived New Delhi on Wednesday on a two-day visit to India at the final leg of their 10-day four-nation tour that also took them to Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.

“Their Royal Highnesses Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arrive,” the British High Commission in India tweeted.

Prince Charles is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday evening and discuss a wide range of issues, including that of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which will take place in April 2018 in the UK.

Prince Charles
Prince Charles arrives in India with his wife. IANS.

Ahead of the royal couple’s arrival, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said climate change, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), economic cooperation, and other bilateral issues would also come up for discussion.

Bilateral trade between India and Britain stands at $12.19 billion. India is the third largest investor in Britain and the second largest international job creator in that country.

Britain is the third largest inward investor in India, with a cumulative equity investment of $24.37 billion for the period April 2000-June 2017

The Indian diaspora in UK is one of the largest ethnic minority communities in the country, with the 2011 census recording approximately 1.5 million people of Indian origin equating to almost 1.8 percent of the population and contributing 6 per cent of the country’s GDP.

This will be Prince Charles ‘s ninth visit to India. He had earlier visited India in 1975, 1980, 1991, 1992, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2013. (IANS)

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Delhi Smog: Smog turns Delhi into a gas chamber

Writers call to confront the smog.

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Delhi smog
Delhi turns into a gas chamber as smog covers the city. wikimedia commons

New Delhi, Nov 8: When acclaimed novelist Amitav Ghosh was writing “The Great Derangement”, a work of nonfiction on the burning issue of climate change, many in literary circles asked him: “Why would you write about something so boring?”

Some two years down the line, as the eyes burn and lungs choke in the “gas chamber” that residents of Delhi find themselves in, his book is a fitting examination of the scale and dangers of climate change.

It was not just a few in literary circles who failed to recognise the problem of climate change; for most of us, it remained something vague. in an interview to this correspondent just ahead the launch of “The Great Derangement”, Ghosh had abruptly asked: “Did you notice the smog that had filled the air just before the onset of winter?”

“I think I did,” I replied. “Well what did you do about it,” he immediately retorted.

Ghosh’s book, however, was a timely response to climate change and deserved much more attention than what it received then.

“Are we deranged,” asks Ghosh in the book and argues that future generations may well think so. “How else to explain our imaginative failure in the face of global warming?” It was his first major book of nonfiction since “In an Antique Land”, and in its pages Ghosh examines our inability — at the level of literature, history and politics — to grasp the scale of climate change.

“In a substantially altered world, when sea-level rise has swallowed the Sundarbans and made cities like Kolkata, New York and Bangkok uninhabitable, when readers and museum-goers turn to the art and literature of our time, will they not look, first, and most urgently, for traces and portents of the altered world of their inheritance? And when they fail to find them, what should they — what can they — do other than to conclude that ours was a time when most forms of art and literature were drawn into the modes of concealment that prevented people from recognizing the realities of their plight? Quite possibly then, this era, which so congratulates itself on its self-awareness, will come to be known as the time of the Great Derangement,” he writes in the book.

Ghosh had added in the interview that, at first, his concerns were about the damage that we are doing to the environment — but climate change is something much bigger.

“When we are talking about environmental impacts, we are talking about specific ecological systems, about specific environments and the ways in which human beings have impacted them. But climate change is something much bigger.

“We are talking about an inter-connected earth’s system, which is changing in ways that after a certain point human beings can’t actually control what is going to happen and that seems to be a situation that we are already in. These changes are occurring in ways that we can no longer impact them. If you look around the world and see what writers are writing about, very few are actually confronting this issue,” he had said.

He also pointed out that, in his opinion, there were no simple or easy solutions.

“What has actually happened is that we have lost the tools, and the ways of thinking, which allow us to understand or even to register what is happening around us. Even if we sometimes find ourselves in the midst of some of these changes, either we are unable to connect it to wider issues of climate change that are occurring or we are unable to think of it in an imaginative way.

“Something is happening, which is going to be, in the long run, catastrophic and yet we are unable to find some story for it,” he maintained.

The fundamental point that Ghosh raised in that interview was that artists, writers and filmmakers have not really given climate change the attention it needs.

He had said that he is “not in the business of finding solutions” but pointed out that one good way to finding a solution is to “understand the gravity and magnitude of the situation we are all in”.

Ghosh suggests that politics, much like literature, has become a matter of personal moral reckoning rather than an arena of collective action. But to limit fiction and politics to individual moral adventure comes at a great cost. The climate crisis asks us to imagine other forms of human existence — a task to which fiction, Ghosh argues, is the best suited of all cultural forms.

A few weeks from now, the smog may fade away and the perils of today may disappear both from the headlines and our minds. But Ghosh’s book will continue to serve as a great writer’s call to confront the most urgent task of our time.( IANS.)

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Editorial Freedom Should be used Wisely in Public Interest says PM Narendra Modi to Media

Prime Minster Narendra Modi on Monday said that editorial freedom should be used in public interest and urged the newspapers to devote space to increase awareness about climate change

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Editorial Freedom
PM Narendra Modi speaks about Editorial Freedom. Wikimedia

Chennai, Nov 6: Prime Minster Narendra Modi on Monday said that editorial freedom should be used in public interest and urged the newspapers to devote space to increase awareness about climate change.

Speaking at the 75th anniversary celebrations of Tamil newspaper Daily Thanthi at the Madras University Centenary Auditorium, Modi said lot of things happen around the world and the editors decide what is important to be published in their newspapers.

He said: “Editorial freedom should be used wisely and in public interest.”

Pointing out the natural calamities occurring around the world at regular intervals, PM Modi urged newspapers to allocate space to increase awareness about climate change.

Narendra Modi said the freedom to write does not in anyway reduce the importance to be accurate and correct, adding that though media outlets may be owned by the private sector, they serve a public purpose, have much social accountability and their conduct should be above board.

editorial freedom
Media must use editorial freedom with public interest, says PM Modi. Wikimedia.

He said technological advancement enables citizens to compare, discuss and analyse the credibility of news and the media should take extra caution to maintain its credibility.

According to him, reform in media can come from within and through introspection.

Observing most of the media discourse revolves around politics, Modi said the nation is made of over a billion people and the media should focus on the people and their achievements.

Citing the spread of mobile phones, Modi said citizen reporting is important in showcasing individual achievements and also helping in the aftermath of natural disasters.

PM Narendra Modi also released a souvenir.

Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan, Chief Minister K. Palaniswami and his deputy O.Pannerselvam also participated in the function.

Paying encomiums to the founder of Daily Thanthi S.P. Adithanar and his son Sivanthi Adithan, Palaniswami said the daily would certainly see centenary celebrations.

Leaders of several political parties, law makers, industrialists, movie actors and diplomats attended the function.

Earlier on his arrival PM Modi was received by Purohit, Palaniswami and others at the airport.

From the airport Modi reached the INS Adyar naval base here in a helicopter.

At INS Adyar, Modi had a meeting with Palaniswami and discussed about the rain and relief situation in Chennai and neighbouring districts. (IANS)