Guwahati: In what has added a new feather to tea plantation industry of Assam, two small tea gardens along the India-Bhutan International Border in Assam’s Udalguri district are the first in the world to get the coveted ‘Elephant Friendly Certified Tea’ tag. This is an initiative launched by the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network and University of Montana, USA, to raise funds for the conservation of Asian elephants.
The two-pronged objective of the certification is to support protection of elephants as well as creating opportunity for tea growers to obtain premium prices for their tea. This will ensure that the tea produced has not endangered elephants.
Assam has an elephant population of 5,620 and 54 people were killed by elephants in 2014-15. In Udalguri, in 2014-16, 52 people were killed by elephants while 14 elephants were killed in conflicts.
A yardstick for measuring the efficiency of a tea estate in protecting elephants has been developed. The parameters include checking if the elephants in the estate are free from risk of electrocution, injury or death by falling into drains, risk of poisoning from chemicals and if the elephant corridors are free from blockades and so on. The two farms, named after their owner, Mr Tenzing Bodosa, fall in an area where wild elephants and tea plantations share space. The two farms are located at Khairani and Khachibari and the distance between the two farms is 10-12 km. Elephants have faced a number of challenges to their existence as tea has eaten into much of their habitat in the northern part of Udalguri, along the India-Bhutan border.
“I plant all kinds of trees like guava, jackfruit and others for a perfect ecosystem. There are no big trenches or fencing in my farms, which provide an easy passage for movement of elephants,” said the tea planter Mr Bodosa whose plantation has been decorated with this tag.