The Steel Ministry has pitched for expediting the rehabilitation plan for coking coal rich Jharia region in Jharkhand with a view to help domestic steel-makers use the vital raw material, which is getting wasted by burning away in underground fires.
"Apart from the fact that these precious resources (coking coal) are not getting available to use and are getting burnt away in fires, the lives of those nearby are in constant risk...The process (rehabilitation) needs to be expedited by quickly identifying land nearby where the displaced people can be settled," the Steel Ministry has said in a document.
Jharia Rehabilitation and Development Authority (JRDA), the nodal agency for shifting the families of underground fire zone, admit that they didn't have any land at their disposal to rehabilitate the affected families, it said.
JRDA needs 2,700 acres of land for resettling the 55,000 families from 595 sites.
Due to unscientific mining in the past, Jharia Coalfields and Raniganj Coalfields located in Dhanbad district of Jharkhand and Burdwan district of West Bengal had been facing the problem of fire and resultant land subsidence as well as rehabilitation of the affected persons.
Many domestic steel-makers have to resort to costlier coking coal imports to meet their demand.
In order to address these issues, the government had approved a Master Plan for dealing with fire, subsidence and rehabilitation of affected persons. Last year, it had given the nod for enhancement of the area of dwelling units.
The Steel Ministry report said, "It is worth noting that Jharia Action Plan initiatives were taken about 15 years ago to develop the coking coal mines in the region which are either getting burnt away or wasted due to inability of the government to rehabilitate and resettle a large population settled in the mining areas."
While the problem appears easy to appreciate, the solutions to them have been difficult to identify due to multiple conflicting interests and non-availability of land coming as a huge setback to the Jharia rehabilitation and development plan.
The government earlier had said that the implementation of Master Plan will lead to safety of people and saving of large amount of coal, among others.
There has been a demand to enhance the area of dwelling units as the earlier one approved under the Master Plan is not seen as sufficient.
The Master Plan of August, 2009 envisaged an estimated investment of Rs 9773.84 crore--Rs 7112.11 crore for Jharia Coalfields (JCF) and Rs 2661.73 crore for Raniganj Coalfields. (RCF).
Source: Business Standard
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