Coal Fires: DGMS, Railways at loggerheads on shifting of tracks in fire zones

A railway employee stands on frieght train as smoke comes out from coal fire near rail track
A railway employee stands on frieght train as smoke comes out from coal fire near rail track

Dhanbad: Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS) and the Railways seem to be at loggerheads over shifting of Dhanbad Chadrapura railway line connecting the coal city with the state capital – considered to be a threat due to the underground mines fire in that route. Railways claim there is no immediate threat to railway tracks.

Both General Manager of the East Central Railways (ECR) DK Gayan and Divisional Railway Manager MK Akhouri in a joint statement made this claim in a reply to the questions raised by the media persons about a week ago. They had said if required short term diversions can be made for saving the existing line. However, the DGMS stands by the Jharia Action Plan (JAP) report and Disaster Management Plan 2016 of Ministry of Railways. Download Railways Disaster Management Plan 2016 released by Ministry of Railways in April here: ir-dm_plan_-2016

The process to shift 200km of railway tracks, which fall in Jharia’s high-risk underground fire zone and hence face subsidence threat, to safer and non-coal bearing region has received a shot in the arm with infrastructure consultancy firm RITES recently submitting a feasibility report.

coal-laden-wagon-on-fireJharia Rehabilitation and Development Authority (JRDA), the executing agency of the Jharia master plan that deals with relocation of people living in the fire-affected zone along with infrastructure and installations, has sought suggestions and comments from Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL), the technical wing of Coal India Limited (CIL), CMPDIL, Directorate General of Mines Safety, Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) and Tata Steel, among other stakeholders.

The suggestions will be vetted by the JRDA, which received the report on October 17, at a meeting in the last week of December and accordingly, modifications will be made.

According to the Jharia master plan, five railway lines – Dhanbad-Chandrapura, Kusunda-Tetulmari and Patherdih-Bhojudih of Dhanbad division of East Central Railway, and Patherdih-Santhaldih and Santhaldih-Bhaga-Gomoh of Adra division of South Eastern Railway – comprising a total of 200km tracks and located in coal-bearing areas are to be shifted at an estimated cost of Rs 3,216.35 crore.

“The feasibility report prepared by RITES has projected the realignments, keeping in mind the proposed doubling of railway line. The agency has suggested the new alignment between Grand Chord Section towards the north and Damodar river in the south. The process to prepare a detailed project report for the new alignment will start after discussions with stakeholders in December,” said JRDA chief manager (civil) Sunil Dalela.

Sources in the JRDA said that the monetary provision of Rs 3,216.35 crore for the shift would be made separately by the central government on the basis of recommendations of a high-powered committee of the Union ministry of coal on fire, subsidence and rehabilitation issue of Jharia and Raniganj coalfield regions.

“Only the consultancy fee for the railway line and shifting of road from the fire-affected areas is included in the Rs 7,028-crore Jharia master plan. Separate allocation has to be made for relaying of railway tracks, which will entail an expenditure of Rs 3,216.35 crore,” said a JRDA official.

The underground fire in Jharia Coalfield Region is raging near Dhanbad-Chandrapujra railway line in areas like Sendra-Bansjora and Lilten-Angarpathra. In Sendra-Bansjora area, the blaze has virtually crossed the line, but is posing no threat as of now as it is much below the tracks.

A preliminary report for shifting the tracks was prepared by RITES in 2011, but procedural delay with regard to suggestions and comments from major stakeholders like the South Eastern Railway and East Central Railway had stalled the feasibility report.

Besides railway tracks, NH-32 is also to be diverted under the plan. As a short-term diversion, a 22.5km road from Mahuda to Topchanchi was developed at a cost of Rs 19.5 lakh in 2013.

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