CHENNAI: The southern bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday constituted a three-member joint committee to investigate alleged illegal transport of green tea leaves from Nilgiris to Valparai. The committee will be headed by Nilgiris Collector with a member from Tea Board and Water Resources Department. The tribunal directed the committee to submit its report within two months. The next hearing is on May 5.
A local resident, BR Lakshmanan, moved the bench, complaining some agents are purchasing leaves from small growers at cheaper rates and selling it to tea factories in Valparai, 250 km away. Besides, a large quantity of freshwater is being used to keep them fresh, depleting the groundwater. If the allegations are true, the local factories in Nilgiris would get less leaves for manufacturing tea. As per the Tea Board, there are 177 registered tea factories in Nilgiris. The board has exhaustive guidelines for issuance of NOC for setting up tea factories.
The proposed factory has to submit list of small growers from whom leaves would be sourced within a 25 km radius and the list of existing factories in the range. The purpose of such information is that the board would only give NOC for setting up new tea factories if there is sufficient availability of green leaves.
“It is the policy of the board to allow setting up tea factories where there is availability of sufficient green leaves. It does not encourage any practice which will have adverse impact on the quality of tea. In order to help small growers of Nilgiris, the board has encouraged them to set up mini tea factories to get the actual price of tea, which otherwise goes to the big tea factories,” he said.