Mumbai: 'Unsafe' electrical substation alarms Bhayander residents

The substation, set up by a private company, does not follow several safety regulations and is a threat to lives, according to locals and the Human Rights Organisation

Even children are taught early on that when it comes to electricity, it is best to err on the side of caution a basic principle electrical power companies are supposed to be mindful of as well.

The Bhayander (East) substation flouts several standard practices followed by power companies while setting up substations. Local residents and the Human Rights Organisation have approached civic authorities to ask for an explanation and demand action
The Bhayander (East) substation flouts several standard practices followed by power companies while setting up substations. Local residents and the Human Rights Organisation have approached civic authorities to ask for an explanation and demand action

However, a private power company has now earned the ire of Bhayander residents and the Human Rights Organisation (HRO) for allegedly flouting several safety norms while erecting an electrical substation outside a residential complex in the area.

A substation takes electricity coming from power plants and transmission lines, and distributes it to consumers, protecting both them and the distribution network. Since their function is sensitive in nature, one normally sees substations in secluded areas, reinforced with concrete walls and safely grounded.

A Tata Power substation in Bhayander (East), however, seems to be missing all these basic precautions. Not only is it situated outside a residential complex, it is placed right by a busy footpath that leads to other residential complexes and a temple.

Besides, the substation has no concrete walls for protection, which leads to fears that the presence of inflammable gases or chemicals on the road or pavement may cause a mishap, said a power expert who did not wish to be named.

However, Tata Power claims that the substation was clear of the footpath and was properly fenced. While industry standards dictate that substations should be grounded and built indoors on a plinth, or be mounted on poles, this substation has been placed on a movable metal truck-like trolley.

It is clearly meant to be a mobile substation, with a hook attacked to the trolley to allow it to be towed away. In a breach of safety requirements, there is no fire extinguisher or even a signboard to warn people who may attempt to enter the area. Furthermore, the fence is shorter than the substation’s structure, so it will be unable to ward off climbers, while an open ladder on the trolley only increases the risk of an accident.

Complaints
Local residents believe that this indicates a scant regard for safety, and several have complained to the authorities on the matter. “I have complained to the municipal authorities, asking them to show the permits that were given to Tata Power to erect this substation, which could be dangerous,” said Ravindrakumar Upadhaya, one of the residents and complainants.

Based on the complaint, the HRO took cognisance of the issue and wrote to the Public Works Department asking for an explanation and demanding that action be taken. The letter dated December 20, 2014 states that the substation could prove to be a threat to the lives of people in the vicinity.

The other side
Tata Power Company Limited issued a statement that said, “The arrangement of a mobile substation is a common practice to overcome immediate or temporary requirement of power supply in India and abroad. Prior to installing the substation at Bhayander, Tata Power has taken all the necessary permissions from PWD and also complied with MERC’s Electricity Supply Code. It is akin to any outdoor substation and poses no safety hazards.”

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