Reds Threaten Black Gold After Green Nod

After being stuck in political and administrative quagmire for 15 years, three critical railway line projects for coal evacuation, worth Rs 5,314 crore, have got environment clearance.

Published: 26th January 2014 08:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th January 2014 09:40 AM   |  A+A-


Green hurdle crossed, red hurdle remains. After being stuck in political and administrative quagmire for 15 years, three critical railway line projects for coal evacuation, worth Rs 5,314 crore, have got environment clearance. But implementation of the projects in Naxal-affected areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha remains a challenge due to security and land acquisition issues. 

The Bhupdevpur-Dharamjaigarh line in Chhattisgarh, Jharsuguda-Barpalli-Sardega line in Odisha and Tori-Shivpur-Kathautia line in Jharkhand have got a push from the Prime Minister’s Office and their progress is now being monitored on a fortnightly basis.

Targeted to be operational by 2016, the three lines are expected to evacuate coal to the tune of 300 million tonnes per annum (MTPA). This is about half of the 615 MTPA of coal production expected by the end of the 12th Plan period. India’s annual coal production for the year 2013-14 was 492 MTPA.

Coal India, grappling with acute coal shortage, expects that once the lines are operational, they will be able to meet the power demands of the country. Coal India has already given `5,314 crore to the Railway Ministry for the construction. 

The Project Monitoring Group (PMG) set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has fixed timelines for each work to be carried out by the Railway Ministry and respective state governments. The projects were pending since 1999.

The biggest hurdle of according forest clearances to two of the three projects has been cleared with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) finally providing green clearances. The ministry was sitting on the clearances since 2011. The Jharsuguda-Barpalli-Sardega link in Odisha has been granted Stage I forest clearance and deadline has been fixed for July 2014 for the grant of Stage II while the Tori-Shivpur-Kathautia link in Jharkhand has got both clearances.

The Bhupdevpur-Dharamjaigarh Railway Line in Chhattisgarh was stuck due to non-formation of SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle), which now has been formed and Ircon will start construction from March 14.  

“Now that all clearances have been granted, these projects are likely to be completed by 2016,” said a senior official.

The PMG made the Railway Ministry and states work timelines for intermediate activities which include land acquisition, tree cutting, handover of forest land, shifting of extra high tension power lines and construction of major bridges.

“These lines are critical. Once ready, the country will not have coal and power shortage. There is no shortage of coal in the country but the problem is of evacuation. Most of the coal exists in areas which are inaccessible so evacuation is a big issue,” the official said.

The PMG is hopeful that respective states would soon be able to acquire land for the tracks, but taking land from tribals remains a contentious issue. The lines pass through Naxal areas and the Railway Board has written to the Home Ministry for providing security to the workforce on the ground.


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