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Tuesday, Feb 12, 2002

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Daitari-Keonjhar-Banspani line -- Early completion of rail project stressed

Nilanjan Dey

KOLKATA, Feb. 11

THE Eastern Zone Mining Association has underlined the significance of speedy completion of the Daitari-Keonjhar-Banspani (DKB) railway line, considered to be an arterial connector between important mining centres in Orissa and Jharkhand.

The DKB project was sanctioned by the Union Government in 1992-93. It was aimed at reducing the rail distance between mineral-rich areas of North Orissa/South Jharkhand and Paradeep port by more than 300 km.

The 155-km line, which was to be completed by March 2000, now has a revised completion date: December 2003. The progress of implementation, said Mr H.C. Daga of the Eastern Zone Mining Association, had been slow, a delay that had adversely affected the area's mining industry.

The existing railway link between Banspani and Paradeep is circuitous. Originating from Orissa, it involves travelling through the States of Jharkhand and West Bengal, before reaching its destination in Orissa again. This is a distance of 661 km, involving an additional expenditure of about $4 per tonne of ore.

On completion, the DKB track is expected to help restore some of the region's cost competitiveness. According to estimates put out by the association, the DKB project area has enormous reserves of iron ore, manganese, chromite, nickel and bauxite. In particular, iron ore reserves stand at approximately 2,550 million tonnes. So far, only 0.3 per cent has been exploited.

For the South Eastern Railway, the volume of traffic has been assessed at around 53 million tonnes in 2001-2002 and 152 m.t. in 2010-11. Apart from iron ore traffic, there could be an opportunity to carry coal via Vizag and Paradeep for users in the South.

Mr Daga, Senior President of Essel Mining & Industries, told Business Line that work on the project was at a stand still. However, considerable progress has been made by way of acquiring land and awarding contract for earthwork. Also, work was in progress on 25 major bridges.

"There is need for better infrastructure in the project area for the smooth movement of ore to the ports — Paradeep and Haldia. This is important in the context of demand for exports to China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.

Also, there has to be better shipment to west coast companies, which are currently importing high-grade ore from Brazil,'' he said.

The early completion of the project will help the ailing industries in the region and provide impetus to development, says the association.

The cost of the project was originally Rs 242 crore. This, the association pointed out, had already escalated about 2.5-3 times. Funds that are allocated are being eaten away on account of revenue expenses or the cost overrun.

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