Blackouts – leaving Goans exasperated
We today understand the importance of electricity; don’t we? The frequent power cuts haven’t only ruined our sleep but also has disrupted life quite a bit in several parts of Goa when they last for a couple of hours at a stretch. Adding to this plight is the scorching heat. NT BUZZ checks the pulse of people about this hot issue and also tries to understand what the authorities have been doing to tackle this annual problem
SHERAS FERNANDES | NT BUZZ
Power cuts are indeed frustrating; and at present it is a hot topic among people at bus stands, ‘tintos’, by-lanes, practically everywhere. We can feel the heat more because it’s summer and no electricity means no fan, no air conditioner, no mixer and no iron. Over the last few days many areas in Goa have been witnessing a problem of power outages during the day as well as at night. While some say it is due to the predicted thunderstorms and untoward natural occurrences, like falling trees, it has been learnt that the number of power failures in villages is much more than that of cities. While there are planned power shutdowns, citizens at large have been complaining of irresponsibility on the part of the government to rectify power related issues.
Frequent and untimely power cuts
Life without electricity in summer is unimaginable. And while many prefer staying indoors, power cuts have made lives weary in this heat. “It’s not only during the summer but power cuts are frequent and untimely. It becomes a disaster during the summer months when imagining life without fans and air conditioning scares you. And especially with all the events going on such as IPL (Indian Premier League), the frequent power cuts dampen the mood,” says Lindsy Antao from Chinchinim. Siolim based Ankita Nagvenkar feels that power cuts at wrong times can be troublesome. “To an extent it is also highly experienced at the most inappropriate hours of the day,” says Ankita. Aishwarya Sinari from Panaji says that power cuts are highly mistimed. “Power cuts are frequent in times when ‘goenkars’ enjoy their afternoon siesta or in the nights where they are left to sing along with the ever increasing number of mosquitoes,” adds Aishwarya. However Vignesh Kamath from Porvorim opines that power cuts aren’t as frequent and untimely as compared to other states.
Affects daily routine
In the modern times people are hooked to their electronic gadgets and completing daily chores would become a task without electricity. Technology has dominated our lives today; power cut directly or indirectly brings our daily routine to a halt. “Right from cooking, washing, ironing and bathing is affected as everything revolves around electricity. It also affects our mental well-being as there’s a lot of pressure and stress piling up thinking about the undone things,” says Lindsy.
Electricity being an essential service has become much more than a luxury now affecting every aspect of life, even education. “As a student, the most adverse effect of such power cuts is the halt in computer/laptop work. Also broadband internet cannot be accessed. Due to no currents, such electrical devices become difficult to operate and to carry out planned work within a given time frame. Also, due to power cuts, the water tanks remain unfilled after its exhaustion for hours,” says Ankita adding that this definitely is the worst effect. Cafes and small hotels are rarely spared from the wrath of power cuts, “I run a cafe so customers do not want to sit in if there’s no current. I also can’t make the cafe related food items,” says Sweta Satardekar from Candolim.
Reason for power cuts
There are several reasons as to why there is a power cut of which the most common would be that the main transformer has been switched off for maintenance work in preparation for monsoons. Other reasons include untoward incidents like trees being uprooted, fire or accidents. However some citizens feel that electricity is being diverted in favour of industries and resorts where the demand for power is more.
According to Siddesh Tari from Rivona, Sanguem it’s due to old and improper infrastructure that power outages are frequent. “We are still using that age old infrastructure that needs to be renewed. The circuits of electric wires look like spider webs,” says Siddesh calling it a pathetic condition of electricity infrastructure in Goa. He adds: “There is a bad coordination between the electricity, water supply and other PWD segments. Whenever PWD or water supply departments undertake any project, they cause damage to the power supply lines and vice versa. The different departments should sit together and discuss the tasks which need to be carried out to avoid such mishaps while carrying out any developmental task.”
Intimated before a planned power shutdown?
The government too has been doing its best to keep the public informed about when there’s going to be a power shutdown, either placing an advertisement on the paper or spreading the message on social media. “I do not rule out that there are efforts taken to circulate advanced information about such power cuts during particular times of the day. This comes as a preparatory notice for planning out the scheduled chores,” says Ankita.
With the news airing in public domain, citizens are very much aware about a possible power shutdown in the near future. “The media is truly a boon, the circulation of messages on social networking sites and on print media suffices the purpose of information and broadcasting the radio station also does their part in spreading the word. However due to bad weather or unexpected technical glitches the power cut is unexpected,” says Aishwarya.
Do we need privatisation of electricity in Goa?
Many states in India have accepted the privatisation of electricity which takes away the government’s monopoly over electricity. But does Goa need to adopt the same? “Privatisation of electricity would be a better option as it would lessen the burden of demand on existing sources. It would also be a good way to utilise the wind and solar energy. Moreover it would bring a great relief to the local population as there would no longer be any frequent power cuts as natural resources would be utilised to supply power,” says Lindsy. Nehash Bhobe from Ribandar says private ownerships have begun venturing into this power generation market. “By privatisation we can improve technological advancement through increased research and development. It is usually assumed that private players would execute the projects with greater efficiency, more players in the markets mean price wars, and it will be beneficial for the customers also,” says Nehash. Siddesh feels that privatisation means entry of capitalists and allowing them to take control of a basic necessity, means exposing common people to the abuse of the money-makers.
Ankita feels that certain services have been monopolised in the interest of society and if that is encroached, then it may drastically affect the affordability towards the same. “For such public service by the state, there are minor/major problems of electricity cut. But that doesn’t mean that we are completely deprived of its accessibility. Thus privatisation is not the end for it. Instead, improvising on the present plants and setting up more plants may be more effective,” says Ankita. While each topic has its good and bad side Aishwarya opines that privatisation will lead to high investment costs, resources will be exploited (nuclear, fossil fuels) leading to further depletion. “Furthermore the magnetic fields around the additional transmission lines may prove to be hazardous. Electricity generated by hydroelectric dams or tidal power will interfere with marine life disturbing the ecology in lure of competition to make big money,” says Aishwarya adding that it is best for the state government to have monopoly over electricity.
Though the problem of power cuts may take some time to be resolved all we can do right now is hope for the best and find alternatives to surviving the blackouts.
(With inputs from Ramandeep Kaur)
With the main reason for power outages being uprooting trees the department has already taken up underground cabling work. Aerial bunch cabling of lower tension lines are being installed to ensure uninterrupted power supply. “Owing to limited funds we cannot undertake underground cabling work in the state. Aerial bunch cables have been installed in some areas and this is likely to improve the situation, however it cannot be a permanent solution,” says chief electrical engineer, Neelkant Reddy.
A power shutdown may be caused due to several reasons such as a natural calamity or maintenance work. The number of cases of power outages in Panaji is much lesser than villages as 80 per cent of the lines in the city are underground cables. “In case of a power outage the department works round the clock to restore power. In case of a planned shutdown we inform the public by publishing advertisements on newspaper or circulating the information on social media,” says executive engineer, state electricity department, CH Rajagopalan.