India is set to commission the first of its three ambitious inter-state rail corridor projects dedicated to coal evacuation in the Naxal-affected Jharsuguda district in Odisha in a little over a year. The project is part of a bigger, though much-delayed plan to invest Rs 7,000 crore in the three rail lines to free 300 million tonnes (mt) of coal supply, locked due to logistical constraints across three states.
The Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) has instructed the coal and the rail ministries to work with the Naveen Patnaik-led government to commission the Ib Valley corridor in Odisha first by December 2014, a senior official close to the development told Business Standard. “Both, land and forest clearances are underway for the Jharsuguda-Barpalli line. A special team under the Project Monitoring Group of the CCI is monitoring the lines now,” he said.
The 53-km corridor will help state-owned miner Coal India Ltd (CIL) scale production potential by an additional 132 mt a year. Only 15 per cent of this is utilised in the absence of evacuation facility. The total cost of setting up the three projects has escalated from Rs 2,000 crore when they were initially planned before the beginning of the Eleventh Plan period in 2007 to Rs 7,000 crore now.
The official also added the next of the three corridors to become a reality would be the 93-km Tori-Shivpur-Kathautia line connecting North Karanpura coalfield in Jharkhand, another Naxal-affected state. All the necessary clearances for the project are already in place now, after a series of meetings taken by the Railway Board Chairman with the state chief secretaries and the central ministries. The rail line is being set up at an estimated cost of Rs 1,095 crore and would help move 127 mt of coal annually out of the coalfields.
The third project, the longest of the three, would be a 180-kilometre stretch connecting the eastern and the western regions of the Mand-Raigarh coalfield in Chhattisgarh. The Bhupdeopur-Korba-Dharamjai corridor would free up production potential of 40 MT per annum for CIL. The miner would contribute Rs 2,880 crore of the overall project cost of Rs 4,500 crore while the rest would come from Indian railway arm IRCON and the state government.