Wednesday , 26 September 2018

No End In Sight To Power Interruptions

DESPITE adequate power supply, some or the other parts of Goa keep facing interruptions for one reason or another. Goans were used to seasonal interruptions, especially during the monsoon, when high winds would uproot trees whose branches would fall on the overhead distribution cables disrupting the supply. However, the outages can be for several other factors, factors that have not been tackled, either for lack of funds or too much corruption in choice of equipment and materials used in power distribution. Frequent power failures affect the economy. Goa is a tourist state. Power outages are bad for the tourism industry. Businesses of hotels, lodges, restaurants, shacks and pubs are affected adversely with power interruptions. Big establishments manage with generators, but that adds to pollution with diesel consumption. Above all, power interruptions affect homes. They rob people of sleep and rest and become an added factor to stress which is already there in the average person’s life in considerable amount anyway. Food in the fridge gets spoilt. Earlier, the blame for power interruptions was put on snapping of overhead cables. But why are there interruptions in areas such as Panaji where underground power cables have been laid? Although power outages are not so terrible in the capital city Panaji, it is so in some or the other parts of the state. The state has not been able to replace the crumbling network of old poles, cables and insulators. Old power lines and equipment get knocked out at the slightest hit, be it lightning or heavy downpour. Unless they are replaced, the situation is unlikely to change.

Every government made a promise to provide people uninterrupted power supply. However, no government kept the promise. The chief electrical engineer accepts that interruptions would continue for another fortnight. However, his timeline might be upset with the onset of monsoon, because cables are overhead in several parts, and uprooting of trees and falling of branches would continue to plague the power supply. Though government has banned digging of roads, labourers working on road widening at Porvorim damaged the power cables. Why can’t digging be supervised by officials of departments concerned so as to prevent such damage? Every government claimed to have made plans for underground cabling, saying that would be the end of the power interruptions. However, the plans seem to be going on very sluggishly, and no government has been able to set a timeline for completing it.

People often express their anger over power interruptions against power department engineers and employees but it is not fair to blame them for all the ills. Where there is dereliction of duty or delay in response, consumers have a right to complain. However, it is becoming common for irate consumers to gather outside the local engineer’s office and even indulge in violent acts. People have to appreciate that the engineers and workers cannot deal with the problems that only the power department and the government can. The state government is now expected to receive Rs 1,700 crore for improvement of power supply and distribution system from the central government, half as grant, half as loan. Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar has promised to rid the power distribution in the state of all its problems with that fund. The power department, he says, is going to upgrade the infrastructure, complete the underground cabling and replace the old equipment in the next three years. However, Madkaikar must explain in a transparent manner how the grant-cum-loan of merely Rs 1,700 crore would solve all the problems of power distribution in the state. His predecessor Milind Naik had said underground cabling throughout the state alone might cost Rs 12,000 crore. This was the estimated cost for digging the ground, laying the cables and covering them with soil.  If the underground cabling were to be done in concrete trenches, he said, the cost would be around Rs 25,000 crore. He even claimed he had got the Chief Minister’s assurance to get central funds for the project. Obviously, Madkaikar cannot do statewide underground cabling with the money he is hoping to get. Perhaps with that kind of money he can end the festering problems of certain parts. The coastal belt in North Goa gets bad power owing to overloading. The Saligao and Candolim sub-stations cannot cope with the power demand in the two areas. The two sub-stations require new high voltage transformers for which a proposal has been pending. The government should also set up a separate sub-station at Calangute to cope with the load.

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