Bhubaneswar: To give city thoroughfares a cleaner and better look, the state Energy department has planned to lay underground power cables replacing the existing overhead electric lines. But it seems that underground cabling is still a distant dream for residents of the smart city.
Had the plan gone according to schedule in the twin cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, the people would not have had to face so many problems relating to power, water and communications as they had to face post the cyclonic storm.
The state-owned Odisha Power Transmission Corporation Limited (OPTCL) was supposed to execute the project in consultation with the Central Electricity Supply Utility (Cesu). While OPTCL is associated with installing power transmission lines, Cesu is a power distribution company of the state government.
In interactions with officials of different departments and the city dwellers, OP has unearthed some facts about the underground cabling work and its progress.
One of Cesu’s officials said, “The work is going on in the twin cities and the project is being handled by OPTCL, so we do not have much information. Moreover, the officials need proper training without which it is going to be difficult to work on underground cable network.”
The project, started in 2016, envisages laying of 33kv and 11kv power lines underground covering a distance of 350km in the city. But the slow pace of work has raised concern among the people. Sources said the entire project was to be completed at a cost of `1,500 crore within five years. In the first phase, `350 crore was allocated along with a deadline of two years.
Nihar Ranjan Pradhan, Chief General Manager of OPTCL, said, “Out of about 15,000 km of overhead distribution lines in the city, only 250 km of lines have been taken up for UG cabling in the first phase in priority areas. Till date, about 200 km of UG cabling work has been completed. Depending on the experience and benefits gained from this work, the UG cabling network may be extended across the city in subsequent phases.”
On being asked about the deadline, he said, “The UG cabling work has been taken up under SCRIPS project of Government of Odisha. The project completion timeline is 2019-2020.” On the Fani cyclone situation, Pradhan said: “After the cyclone Fani, power supply in the areas where UG cabling work had been completed was restored first. The situation after Fani would have been definitely different had all the overhead lines in the city been converted into UG cables. Although the LoA for the work was issued in November 2015, actual field work started only after getting Road Cutting Permission from different authorities like R&B, Railways, BMC, NHs, etc. Even now, permission from Railways for rail crossing is awaited.”
According to an official of BMC, due to proper monitoring and execution of the project, the underground cabling work has become a tough one and due to this the common people have to suffer.
Resident Abbas Alam said, “We are facing a lot of problems as soon as the work for underground cabling started as the road near my house was dug out and due to this my kids are unable to move out of home as they may fall in the pits, but still the work was not properly done and it seems the work will start again and we have to face similar problems.”
Another resident Rehmita Mishra said, “I was very proud that I am living in a smart city but after Fani I came to know that it is just for the name and nothing else, when for 12 days we had to live without electricity. Electricity would not have been a problem had the government completed the work of underground cabling. It seems the government is just fooling us. In other cities all modern amenities are provided to them thus making them actually smart sans the name.”