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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2002

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Plea to hike funds for DKB rail line

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KOLKATA, Sept. 17

THE Eastern Zone Mining Association feels that the fate of the Daitari-Keonjhar-Banspani (DKB) railway line, for which the Railway Budget for 2002-03 has sanctioned a sum of Rs 40 crore, is uncertain. It has urged the Government to arrange funds from multilateral agencies such as the Asian Development Bank for its speedy completion.

The DKB project, which was first approved in 1992-93, has seen a very tardy progress with only a fraction - roughly 10 km - of the proposed 155-km line completed so far.

The association is currently trying to increase the level of public awareness of the project, which is generally considered critical for the development of mining areas in the eastern states, especially Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar. The project, it is also pointed out, will help bring fresh opportunities for ports at Paradeep and Vizag.

The latest budgetary allocation of Rs 40 crore is for the extension of the line up to Keonjhar, a stretch of 45 km beyond Jururi. "Given the slow progress and the paucity of funds, the completion of the line up to this point within the scheduled time seems doubtful at the moment,'' said Mr H.C. Daga, a source close to EZMA.

The cost of the project (initially fixed at over Rs 240 crore), has naturally increased several fold due to the time overrun, it is pointed out.

The existing railway link between Banspani and Paradeep has to move along a roundabout course. Starting from Orissa, one has to travel through states like Jharkhand and West Bengal to another destination in Orissa. Together, this involves a distance of 661 km - against the proposed stretch of only 326 km.

"The line, when completed, will reduce the distance between the mineral-rich areas and the Paradeep port by 335 km, a saving of almost 50 per cent,'' noted Mr Daga, Senior President, Essel Mining & Industries, adding that this will increase the prospects for exports to countries like China and Taiwan.

Also, the domestic shipment to companies in the west coast (which presently import ore from Brazil for blending with locally-available material) will be boosted.

The association has cited data collected by the Director of Mines, Orissa, to underline its case. The eastern sector is rich in iron ore, manganese, chromite, nickel and bauxite; these have been exploited only in a limited manner.

For instance, only 0.31 per cent of the estimated 2,550 MT of iron ore and only 0.56 per cent of the estimated 167 MT of chromite have been tapped.

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