Bhubaneswar: Substandard work had led to severe destruction of electricity infrastructure in Puri, Cuttack and Khurda districts by cyclonic storm Fani that made a landfall on Odisha coast May 3, opined a few former engineers.
The state government suffered monetary losses to the tune of Rs 15 crore due to destruction of at least 70 electricity towers which were transmitting power from Khurda Pandiabila grid to Samagara station in Puri, sources said.
The Odisha Power Transmission Corporation Limited (OPTCL) had constructed those 220KV towers during the Nabakalebara rituals of Srimandir deities in 2015. The motive was to provide uninterrupted power supply to Puri city during the mega event.
The OPTCL had engaged a private company to erect the 220KV towers connecting Pandiabila grid in Khurda to Samagara station in Puri. It had spent a hefty sum of Rs 53 lakh per kilometre for the new project. The OPTCL had taken up the project work itself when the private firm failed to meet the deadline. However, the authorities concerned had procured materials for the electricity towers from Raipur in Chhattisgarh through a private contractor.
Officials and engineers of OPTCL did not take any steps to examine the quality of materials procured for the project, sources said.
“The 220 KV towers constructed in Khurda and Puri districts during the Nabakalebara rituals were of sub-standard quality. At least 70 electricity towers were damaged by the summer storm,” said a source.
According to sources, many 132KV towers connecting Samagara station to Puri city withstood the cyclonic storm. These towers had been erected long ago.
Similarly, many electricity towers, constructed around 40 years ago, in Nimapara and Puri city suffered minor damages during the storm, sources said.
It is worth mentioning here that cyclonic storm Phailin had damaged hundreds of electricity towers in Ganjam and Gajapati districts in 2013. However, many electricity towers of the railways in the two districts withstood the storm.
Then Energy department secretary Pradip Jena had constituted an expert committee to look into the issue. The committee had made certain recommendations for strengthening electricity towers in state. As per the recommendations of the expert committee, electricity towers should be constructed in such a way that they can withstand wind speed up to 270 km per hour. The committee had also suggested that towers must not be erected with second class steel bars.
“The OPTCL authorities had ignored the recommendations of the expert committee while erecting electricity towers in Puri and Khurda district in 2015. As a result, most of the towers were damaged by cyclone Fani,” said a former engineer of Energy department.
Sources, meanwhile, claimed that the OPTCL authorities had ordered for testing of the quality of towers erected in 2015. OPTCL authorities have planned to take action against the firm that had supplied materials for the towers.
OPTCL director (projects) RR Panda said they have sent samples from the damaged towers for laboratory testing. “We are waiting for the laboratory report. The cyclonic storm also damaged many towers which had been erected prior 2015,” he added.