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Monday, June 09, 2014  
From Palashponga to Bamebari - A Road leading to Development, to Green
"Development is not necessarily leasing out mines and erect large scale industries on the multi-crop agricultural land. Development of 28 kilometre road from Palashponga to Bamebari of Orissa's Keonjhar district stands as a testimony to the fact - how development of infrastructure in strategic locations can promote industries set by the local entrepreneurs and also the local communities to grow side by side."
Basudev Mahapatra

From Palashponga to Bamebari - the 28 kilometre long and dusty road with craters all over is now changing into a world-class road infrastructure. It’s an example how development of infrastructure with less or almost no issues like displacement and loss of livelihood help socio-economic development of the outreach communities side by side the growth of industries and state economy.

Since beginning, this road in the district of Keonjhar of Orissa assumed greater relevance as the lifeline of mining activities as it was the shortest way from Keonjhar to Bamebari – the place that bears maximum iron ore reserves. But because of heavy traffic and almost no maintenance, the road turned rough with craters all through offering huge dust particles to the local communities and the plants around. Transportation on the road became the worst experience for the transporters and there was no transportation of minerals during the rainy seasons. Difficulties in iron ore transportation from this region did affect the profitability of the companies that came up in the area.

Such operational problems due to lack of a quality road brought 21 industries together to form a company named Keonjhar Infrastructure Development Company Limited or KIDCO to develop the road which would ensure regular supply of ore to the industries and, again, reduce the running distance between Keonjhar and Bamebari by 35 kilometres. But getting adequate financial, management and monitoring support was still an issue for KIDCO to go ahead with the project.

KIDCO then approached IL&FS – a renowned name in the infrastructure financing and management sector. With persuasion of IL&FS Clusters’ financial team in Mumbai, SBI granted a loan of 58 crores in June 2009 and the project stepped further to make it not just a road but an infrastructure to improve the state economy and life of people living in 90 villages who depended on it. However, some of the industries played important role in mobilising the initial funds to make the project take off. OP&HS - a Bhubaneswar based project management consultancy provider started by a group of young professionals from different fields – partnered with the IL&FS to supervise and monitor the project in Orissa.

Quality and timely completion was what the infrastructure planners and builders tried to ensure. As the progress went little slow than what has been targeted, IL&FS Cluster Development Initiative is now leading from the front since the last monsoon in order to make up the delay in execution. The team of professionals on the site have managed to construct 20 Kilometres out of a total 28 Kilometres of the road by the time this report is written. In many ways this is the first concrete road being built by engineers rather than supervisors and workers.

Even though the whole infrastructure is yet to be completed, the impacts are quite visible. With the road coming up, cost of transportation of ore has drastically come down from Rs. 3.75 per tonne per kilometre to Rs.1.75 per tonne per kilometre making a good dividend to be shared by truckers, truck owners and the industries.

It’s not only that the industries and others who are involved in the business are getting the benefit. The road has virtually changed the life of communities living around the road - a direct impact being more pucca houses built by the local communities. Economy of the area has undergone a change. The local weekly markets popularly known as Haats are more vibrant with more customers able to travel from farther areas. Permanent Markets are also coming up on the roadside giving the village community an access to better and improved products. Overall a sea change in the economic activities of the area.

‘With the new concrete road that came up in their area, people are now happy because they won’t have to experience a frustrating walk on the slippy mud road in the rainy seasons’, says Dambarudhar Mahanta of Kandarapasi village. Commuting to nearby and farther areas have become easier with bus services starting from Kalimati located at 22nd kilometre to as far as Bhubaneswar. Life expectancy has gone up as the time taken to reach the hospital is reduced to about 20 minutes compared to earlier 3 hours. ‘Earlier, it was a terrible affair to take a pregnant woman to the nearby hospital. Now at least we can hope to reach the hospital comfortably in time’, says Grasha Mahanta of Kandarapasi village.

The greatest and visible change is seen with the nature that has now come in its own colour. Once offering dusts to cause tuberculosis and bronchial diseases to the local communities and also to cover the green leaves with a layer of dust, this infrastructure now offers a road to the true colours of life and greenery making it an example for the government to realise what kind of development the state needs to see its downtrodden communities happy.

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