Illegal structures that violate norms on minimum distance from live wires and transmission systems endanger lives of citizens; Corporation, Tangedco slow to act

The electrocution of four persons in Puzhal on Sunday may seem like an isolated and freak incident. But residents across Chennai are exposed to a similar danger posed by transmission wires, but are not aware of it.

The main reason for this safety hazard is illegal structures that violate norms pertaining to live wires and transmission systems. Neighbourhoods, where building violations are rampant, are particularly vulnerable. On the Taramani-Velachery Link Road, certain illegal structures have live wires passing right through them.

The problem is partly attributed to the lack of will on the part of the Chennai Corporation and the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (Tangedco) to crack down on such violations. In fact, the Corporation has not yet taken the preliminary step of indentifying structures with live wires running close by. “A junior engineer from each of the 200 Corporation wards is entrusted with the job of identifying these illegal structures and initiating action, but none of them seems to be bothered about this,” said a resident of Velachery. Corporation authorities, however, say the road to enforcement is fraught with problems. “At least 20,000 new buildings are constructed in the city every year. In most cases of illegal construction, builders obtain stay orders against demolitions,” said an official from the civic body.

Tangedco is also expected to take precautionary measures to avoid untoward incidents. It has a statutory duty to maintain live wires and other systems used for transmission.

According to Tamil Nadu Electrical Inspectorate officials, a vertical clearance of 3.7 metres is mandatory when a high voltage line of 33,000 volts passes near a building.

For extra-high voltage lines, a distance of 3.7 metres with an additional 0.3 metre for every 33,000 volts is required. The horizontal clearance between the nearest conductor and any part of a building should not be less than 1.2 metres for high voltage lines including 11,000 volts; for high voltage lines above 11,000 volts and including 33,000 volts, the clearance is 2.0 metres.

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