Fire in belly, tracks at Jharia coal belt to be closed from June 15

The Railway Board’s civil engineering department on Saturday issued a letter to East Central Railway, instructing that all train operations should be stopped from June 15, after giving the people proper notice

Written by Avishek G Dastidar , Prashant Pandey | New Delhi | Updated: June 11, 2017 1:47 am
Workers sorting and loading coal at Munidhi, Jharia. Source: Partha Paul

THE RAILWAYS has decided to stop all train operations on the 41-km Dhanbad-Chandrapura stretch in Jharia coalfields zone of Jharkhand from June 15 following the Coal Ministry’s latest report that says the age-old fires in the mines have made the area unstable and vulnerable. After a second inspection of the coalfields last week, the Director General of Mines Safety (DGMS) submitted a report reiterating its stand on June 2. The Coal Secretary subsequently sent a letter to the Railway Board communicating the findings.

“In the interest to safety of human lives, movement of trains in the Dhanbad-Chandrapura railway line is to be stopped,” the report says. The Railway Board’s civil engineering department on Saturday issued a letter to East Central Railway, instructing that all train operations should be stopped from June 15, after giving the people proper notice. Divisional Railway Manager (Dhanbad Division), East Central Railway, M K Akhouri, told The Indian Express over phone, “We have got orders to close down the track by June 15. The alternative plans…are being worked out. We will be able to finalise the plans by Monday or Tuesday.” Akhouri said that some trains would have to be terminated, and others will have to be diverted.

With nearly 1 lakh families based in the area, Jharkhand Chief Secretary Raj Bala Verma had earlier visited Dhanbad and asked all agencies concerned to chalk out a time-bound plan to implement rehabilitation of the people. On May 31, The Indian Express had reported that the Railways will stop all operations in the area following a renewed push from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to solve the 100-year-old problem of fire in the mines.

The move will affect an average 26 pairs of passenger trains every day, besides a large number goods trains that carry coal from what is one of India’s biggest coal-mining regions. The Railways has told PMO that an estimated 20 million tonnes of coal is carried from the area every year, translating into earnings of approximately Rs 2,000 crore. Added with earnings from passengers, the total revenue loss for Railways is pegged at an annual Rs 2,500 crore. As per the Centre’s plans, the Coal Ministry will put out the fires after all human activity is cleared from Jharia coalfields. The process is expected to take around two years, and Railways will get the existing line restored subsequently.

According to the latest inspection of DGMS, fire in seven mines around the trackshave made the ground instabile. These are Busserya, Sendra Bansjora, Katras Choutidih, AKWMC, New Akashkinare, South Govindpur and Teturia mines. Dhanbad DC A Dodde said, “For the commuters of terminated trains (mostly locals), we are planning to provide extra bus services.”

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