Big plan to move coal by river to Assam

Santanu Sanyal Kolkata | Updated on November 17, 2011 Published on November 17, 2011

Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is exploring the possibility of transporting coal to Assam by the river route on a big scale.

“NTPC wants about one million tonnes of imported coal transported annually by the river route to meet the requirements of its Bongaigaon thermal plant”, Ms Bhupinder Prasad, Chairperson of IWAI, told Business Line.

“We’re examining how to do it. The coal is to be unloaded from barges at Jogigopa for onward movement by road to Bongaigaon thermal plant”.

Located at Salakati, the Bongaigaon thermal plant is about 60 km from Jogigopa.

To invite bids

IWAI would invite bids from intending firms for undertaking the entire operation once the detailed project report was ready, she said.

The river route to Assam is through Bangladesh. “But it should pose no problem as there already exists a trade and transit treaty between the two countries”, she added.

Critical role

The river transportation of coal, as Ms Prasad pointed out, would steadily pick up in coming years and IWAI would play a critical role in it.

According to one estimate, about 70 million tonnes-80 mt of imported coal would have to be transported by the river route by 2017, the terminal year of the 12th Plan.

By that time the country would be required to import about 250 mt of coal for the power sector and the railways would be able to handle about 160/180 mt of it.

11 thermal power plants

A spokesman for IWAI said already 11 thermal power plants could be accessed from the National Waterway Number 1, i.e, Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system, and another nine plants, some with huge capacity, were due to come up along the river system.

“The potential for barge movement of coal by the river route, therefore, is huge”, he said. “Virtually sky is the limit”.

The existing plants are located at Kolaghat, Budge Budge, Bandel, Sagardighi, Farakka, Kahalgaon, Barauni, Barh, Muzaffarpur, Anpara and Opra and proposed plants are to be located at Katwa, Pir Painty, Bhagalpur, Lakhiseari, Buxar, Mirzapur, Meja, Bara and Karchhana.

Barge movement

Barring unforeseen developments, the barge movement of imported coal from the Sandheads, the mouth of the Hooghly river, to Farakka plant of NTPC, covering a distance of 650 km or so, should start within a year or so.

The Jindal ITF, the spv floated by the Jindal Group to implement the project, is to invest an estimated Rs 650 crore on acquisition of vessels, creation of handling facilities and construction of two-km long conveyor system from the Farakka jetty to the coal stacking yard of the plant to transport about three million tonnes annually.

“We’ll guarantee minimum required draft in the river to facilitate barge movement”, the spokesman added.

Published on November 17, 2011
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