MP red flag on road widening

A JMM MP's word of caution against the proposed widening of NH-2 near the mining town of Nirsa in Parliament proved prophetic as a section of a road connecting Kapasara opencast mine of Eastern Coalfields in Nirsa, Dhanbad, caved in yesterday allegedly due to illegal mining.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 6.12.15
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The road that caved in at Kapasara near Nirsa marketin Dhanbad on Friday. Picture by Gautam Dey

New Delhi, Dec. 5: A JMM MP's word of caution against the proposed widening of NH-2 near the mining town of Nirsa in Parliament proved prophetic as a section of a road connecting Kapasara opencast mine of Eastern Coalfields in Nirsa, Dhanbad, caved in yesterday allegedly due to illegal mining.

The collapsed section is a stone's throw from NH-2, which is being widened to from four to six lanes under the Rs 1,665 crore Barwa-Adda-Panagarh project in Jharkhand and Bengal, executed by a Durgapur-based subsidiary of Mumbai-based IL&FS Transportation Networks since 2013.

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha during Zero Hour on Thursday, JMM MP Sanjiv Kumar warned the government to shift the project. He revealed that on April 22 the Director General of Mines Safety had asked the project director of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to shift the hazardous project.

He quoted the letter in the house: "The proposed widening of NH-2 at Nirsa... may jeopardise the safety of such underground workings (mining activity) and in turn the stability of NH-2 in future, considering depth of such underground workings and presence of fire, etc... going beyond the coal bearing Nirsa area would be a better option in national interest so that precious coal/ natural resources would not be blocked."

Kumar raised the issue after getting a written reply from Union minister of state for road transport and highways P. Radhakrishnan on Wednesday, denying any safety risk.

In his reply to Kumar's query of November 30, the minister said, "No location prone to fire or subsidence has been reported in the feasibility study report of the project prepared by the design consultant. Independent engineer has also reported that there is no subsidence in the area... any alteration in the project alignment shall delay the project on account of land acquisition & utility shifting. This will also have huge financial implication ..."

After the yesterday's collapse, thankfully without casualties, Kumar stands vindicated.

"The lives of the people of Nirsa are more valuable than the additional cost. In fact, if the highway collapses like we saw yesterday, the financial cost-in addition to the human toll-will be much higher and there will be no one to claim responsibility as the contractor would have left," he told The Telegraph.

Kumar said it would be better to bypass Nirsa and build the road via Mugma. "There is space to even develop this into an eight-lane. It is shocking that despite warnings from the government agency and persistent appeals from locals that cave-ins are common here, the Centre is adamant on building a highway above mines which are on fire due to illegal mining," he said.

NHAI chairman Raghav Chandra told this correspondent he would check with officials on the spot and then decide what action could be taken.