JOAO SOUSA M | NT
NAVELIM: Monsoons are fast approaching and the electricity department is plagued with a number of problems to complete pre-monsoon works on time to beat the fury of nature and to give its customers an undisrupted power supply during the heavy rains.
While underground cabling is looking a distant reality in coastal Salcete, the lack of co-ordination between government departments is also hampering the pre-monsoon works as several ‘dangerous’ trees are posing a threat to overhead lines as lakhs of rupees are wasted each year due to damages to electricity poles and overhead lines.
In Macazana for example, residents have been complaining of long power interruptions and poor response from the department to rectify electricity woes on time while alleging that the department has not carried out maintenance for years which has resulted in creepers getting entangled onto overhead power lines.
The deputy sarpanch Caetano Vaz said that the service of the department is very poor in villages and there is no maintenance done by the department despite bringing the matter to their notice several times. Vaz said that the matter has even echoed during the gram sabhas.
There were requests to even shift some broken poles which has been pending for over three years but has not been done till date while the response of the department to handling power breakdowns is also very poor, he said.
Another villager said that whenever it is brought to the knowledge of the staff, they immediately respond saying that they do not have sufficient vehicles to respond in time adding that it is the public which suffers due to the negligence of the department.
During the monsoon, villages such as Benaulim, Colva, Curtorim, Sirlim-Dramapur, and Sarzora face a lot of hardships due to frequent power breakdowns with trees uprooting and falling on overhead lines damaging electric poles.
While residents of Sarzora, Sirlim and Dramapur can breathe easy this year, since the electricity department has shifted the poles which were passing through fields alongside the road making it more accessible in the event of any power breakdown, however the Cuncolim sub-station continues to face shortage of vehicles while covering a large areas. While the poles have been shifted, the overhead power lines lack maintenance especially in Dramapur-Sirlim. A random survey has revealed that the lines are covered with creepers and cob-webs, while dead tree branches are leaning precariously over the overhead lines. To make matters worse, some lines are dangerously low and could pose a problem during the monsoon.
A lineman requesting anonymity said that the area is large and some places are not easily accessible as the lines were passing through fields. He said due to this drawback many hours are wasted during a power breakdown.
There was a proposal placed for a new sub-station, however, the proposal lacked consensus as Sarzora village panchayat has strongly objected to the proposal for setting up of a sub-station.
On the other hand the department has a problem to prepare for the monsoon right from cutting of trees, to routine maintenance work, due to shortage of manpower, vehicles, shortage of electricity poles, conductors etc.
A highly placed source in the department requesting anonymity informed that the department faces the biggest challenge during the first monsoon where the department is pushed to the limits to tackle the power breakdowns due to shortage of staff as well as vehicles to reach the site.
He said that the department also faces challenges to prepare for the monsoon as it is virtually impossible to carry out maintenance of all the lines adding that the department calls for power shutdowns sectorwise. He said that the department has limited time to complete the tree cutting. The source further said that it is not just the electricity department alone which is involved in pre-monsoon works but also has other departments involved including the forest department to identify and cut dangerous trees which pose a threat to overhead lines and electric poles.
He said people oppose tree cutting or trimming of branches which pose threat to the overhead lines, especially fruit bearing trees. As a result, he said, the department is unable to take up work on time adding that shortage of vehicles also pose a big challenge as the area to be covered is vast and the line staff have to even carry ladders on their two wheelers.
Another official said that the overhead lines pass through thick vegetation along the coastal belt and hilly terrain of Curtorim, besides open fields in some places, hence the department has a number of challenges to carry out maintenance and reaching the areas especially during power breakdowns.
He further stated that most of the overhead lines are over 35 years old which further compounds the problems of the department in carrying out maintenance. He said that often during monsoon the conductors fail along with line-snapping and the blame falls on the department for not carrying out the maintenance on time.