Varanasi, March 25 (Times of India): Eighty-six years after the city got electricity, overhead power cables in Varanasi are being dismantled after a project to lay underground lines over 16 sq-km has been finally completed. Laying cables for 50,000 consumers through the serpentine lanes and congested markets in one of the world’s oldest cities was quite a challenge for PowerGrid. the company conducting the integrated power development scheme (IPDS) project.
“Demographics-wise Seoul and some Turkish cities on the riverfront were considered complicated. While implementing IPDS in Varanasi, we realised this is the most complicated city to lay infrastructure for underground cables,” said Power Grid’s project manager for IPDS Varanasi, Sudhakar Gupta. The company took two years, and finished in December 2017.
Former Union minister of state for power and coal Piyush Goyal announced the Rs 432-crore project for underground cabling work under IPDS for Varanasi in June 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Rs 45,000-crore IPDS for the country in Varanasi in September 2015. The pilot project was rolled out in Kabir Nagar and Ansarabad.
Helps Fight Poer Theft
In a country that loses a quarter of its electricity to theft, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency — Varanasi — has shown a way out by pushing distribution cables underground and deploying technology to track illegal connections.
Since work on overhauling the rickety distribution network began a year ago, power losses have dropped from 45% to below 10% in the Old Kashi area of the holy city, while the number of legal connections have jumped nearly 14% and improved the discom’s revenue collection.
As work on underground cabling and removal of overhead supply lines progressed, consumers find tapping —a common practice in semi-urban India —nearly impossible. Tripping devices in the network have made it easier to detect illegal connections and identify the guilty. This is evident from over 100 First Information Reports (FIRs) filed for power theft.
This is the first time this kind of project has been done at such a scale in the country. It was challenging — from absence of distribution blueprints, narrow working window of 11p.m to 6 a.m in deference to Old Kashi’s status as a holy city, to cramped working space in lanes where had to ensure against disrupting people’s access and floods. We completed the task in time due to support from the Central and local administrations,” Power-Grid chairman I S Jha told TOI.
The Central transmission utility was entrusted with the task of modernizing the rickety distribution network in a 16 Km sq area, spanning an 8-km arch along Ganga and running two km into the city from its banks, under the Central government’s Integrated Power Development Scheme.
“The maze of wires and electric poles spoiling the view are gone. We had to lay 1,500 kms of underground cables and all stages of distribution strengthened. In case of a fault, only a cluster of 12 houses now face blackout and not the entire mohalla. Fixing faults is easier because of MCBs and MCCBs installed at transformer sites and substations. Tampering is quickly detected,” Power Grid’s Varanasi project manager Sudhakar Gupta told TOI.