Fund crunch halts underground electric cabling works in city
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Fund crunch halts underground electric cabling works in city

May 8, 2024

Mysore/Mysuru: With only 12 days remaining until the completion of its first year in office, the Siddaramaiah-led Congress Government faces challenges in prioritising developmental works amidst the implementation of five pre-poll guarantees including 200 units of free power, costing the exchequer to a great extent.

The underground (UG) electric cable network project aimed at modernising the city’s power supply infrastructure is currently at a standstill as the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) has cited financial constraints. The initiative, designed to replace conventional power supply methods with underground cables, holds promise in mitigating risks posed by low-hanging overhead cables, which have previously resulted in fatal electrocution incidents, especially after heavy rains.

The first phase of the project has covered 30 percent of the city’s area with a UG cable network, requiring an investment of Rs. 300 crore. However, the subsequent phase to extend this network to the entire city requires a budget of Rs. 600 crore.

As technology continues to evolve, Governments prioritise enhancement of existing civic infrastructure. The adoption of UG cable networks for power supply represents a progressive shift. Chamundeshwari Electricity Supply Corporation  (CESC) is replacing traditional overhead cables.

Previously, the Karnataka Electricity Board (KEB) supplied electricity through conventional methods, involving transformers connected to feeder units with wires for transmission. However, this approach proved vulnerable, particularly during inclement weather, leading to frequent power outages and substantial losses.

Instances of fatalities involving both humans and livestock have been reported due to contact with live electric wires, often resulting from snapped wires or transformer explosions. The risk is compounded by the supply of 430 voltage power through 11 kv transformers.

Workers clearing the fallen electric cables following last Friday’s rains on Manandavadi Road.

The establishment of Electricity Supply Companies (ESCOMs) following the restructuring of the KEB led to the formation of CESC. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities in 2018-19 proposed a Rs. 300 crore initiative to install UG cable lines in Mysuru city.

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After KERC approval, the Government allocated funds. Larsen and Toubro (L&T) and Asian Fabtech were awarded the work order through a tender process to install 144.69 km of 400 square millimetres (MM) capacity cable and 301.25 km of 244 square MM capacity cables.

The areas initially targeted for coverage under the UG cable network included the Central, NR and VV Mohalla Sub-divisions. The Central Sub-division encompasses areas surrounding Mysore Palace and adjacent residential and commercial areas.

The NR Sub-division covers NR Mohalla and Rajendra Nagar, while the VV Mohalla Sub-division includes prominent roads where cables were laid using High Definition Digging Mechanism (Horizontal Directional Drilling). Currently, 30 percent of the city benefits from UG power supply. However, plans to extend this coverage to the remaining 70 percent of the city face uncertainty.

Despite submitting a proposal eight months ago for Rs. 600 crore to commence the second phase, CESC finds itself at a standstill. The project remains pending with the KERC due to a fund crunch.

Last Friday’s rains wreaked havoc in city and district, causing extensive damage to several hundred transformers and electric poles. The estimated loss incurred by CESC due to this destruction amounts to Rs. 80 lakh.

Any delay in the comprehensive implementation of the UG cable project, which requires a one-time investment, not only poses financial risks for CESC but also threatens the aesthetic appeal of the city. The presence of damaged poles and dangling cables would create an unsightly scene for residents and tourists.

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