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Posted on Feb 22, 09:49PM | IANS
Kolkata, Feb 22 : Rainforest Alliance, a New York-based NGO working to conserve biodiversity, is in talks with the Tea Board of India on a project to restore soil heath in West Bengal's Darjeeling district, known for its special varieties of tea.
The Darjeeling tea industry faces an acute problem of soil erosion on the slopes.
"We feel that soil health is a major problem in Darjeeling. Because of its steep slopes, major soil erosion happens. Most of the decline in the crops here is basically because of the social erosion," Rainforest Alliance consulting programme coordinator, India, Harki Sidhu said here Friday.
The NGO, engaged in ensuring sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, has a globally-recognised farm certification system on improving environmental protection and economic viability.
Sidhu said the organisation was currently in talks with the Tea Board to carry out a pilot project in Darjeeling to put in place a system to replenish the soil.
"What we are trying to do with the Tea Board is to work out a system of replenishing the soil. We will put in place different systems like organic concoction, which will help in building soil heath," he said.
"Most probably, Tea Board will be helping us to get funding for the project. And it would take five to six months to start the project after getting the Board's approval," he added.
Currently, as many as 76 tea estates of India have got Rainforest's certification. Among these, 15 gardens in Assam and Darjeeling are owned by tea major Goodricke Group.
Goodricke Friday announced the introduction of its Rainforest Alliance certified teas in the market.
The company said the premium teas were sourced from the NGO-certified tea gardens.