Mumbai's dark nights

Sep 07, 2013, 06:42 IST | Shashank Rao

Streets in the island city may plunge into darkness as the maintenance contract of nearly 416 streetlights has expired; it couldn't be renewed on time due to long procedures and red tape at BEST

If you find that the roads near your house are completely dark, blame the BEST. The maintenance contract of nearly 416 streetlights in the island city between Colaba and Sion-Mahim expired on August 31.

According to sources at BEST, the annual maintenance contract for the 416 streetlight poles (SLPs) was for a period of one year, from September 2012 to August 2013. The contract couldn’t be renewed on time since it has to go through long procedures and many approvals are required for the same.

The BEST operates a total of 39,700 streetlights in the city, many of which are new. Compared to this figure, 416 streetlights may seem negligible. But with the advent of the Ganpati festival, it is necessary that the streets are well-lit. If a large stretch of a road plunges into darkness, it will cause several problems to motorists.

Allaying such fears, A Tamboli, senior spokesperson, BEST, said, “There is no need to worry as these streetlights will be maintained by the existing contractor till the new ones are appointed.” Since the contract has expired, it is not mandatory for the contractor to maintain the lights. In that case, it is the responsibility of the BEST to maintain the streetlights. But BEST doesn’t have the manpower to do so.

The undertaking incurs an expense of Rs 2 lakh every month for the comprehensive maintenance of streetlights during the contract period. The average life of a streetlight pole is around 10 to 12 years. The life of streetlight poles depends on geographical conditions and the quality of the road they are installed on, among other things.

Currently, around 15 per cent of the streetlights have been installed on or before the year 2000. BEST has already begun inspection of these streetlights. They are also contemplating the use of LED lamps for their streetlights, as it will help them save at least 40 per cent on electricity bills.

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