If you’ve ever wondered why the streetlights in your locality do not function, take a good look at the poles. Chances are, there are either advertisements plastered on them or there is a mass of entangled cables hanging loose.

These advertisement hoardings and cables, Chennai Corporation officials said, are the biggest challenge to the functioning of streetlights in the city. To combat this, the civic body is now planning to impose a fine of Rs, 10,000 on any agency that uses a streetlight’s pole for advertisements.

Earlier this year, the Corporation had set June 10 as the deadline for the removal of all structures placed on streetlights. However, the deadline has now been extended by 15 days following requests from agencies that use these poles.

The initiative to penalise violators was taken on Tuesday, when employees of the Corporation’s electrical department met to discuss ways to improve the condition of streetlights.

“Many streetlights are damaged because of illegal advertisements. Many agencies also use streetlights to support their cables, and this also leads to considerable damage. As a result, several streetlights do not work and roads remain unlit at night,” said a Corporation official.

“The disruption of power supply in one cable can affect other streetlights on the same stretch. The Corporation has to spend thousands to set it right. So the fine amount of Rs. 10,000 was accepted by everyone at the meeting,” the official added.

However, the Corporation Council will discuss this proposal and is likely to take a decision on it only at its next meeting. The fine amount may also be reduced.

The move is part of the civic body’s larger plan to put in place an automated control system to monitor streetlights in the city. A few weeks ago, the Corporation called for expressions of interest from companies for a pilot study and proposal for the automated facility.

Under the system, data on the functioning of streetlights will be collected and updated, and immediate action will be taken to fix lights that do not work properly.

The new proposal envisages a control room in Ripon Buildings and a study of 4,569 individual streetlight fittings in locations including Chintadripet, Ashok Nagar, Velachery and Adyar.

At Tuesday’s meeting, it was also decided that agencies will now have to seek permission to lay their cables and pay a track rent to the Corporation. “This is essential as at least five complaints on damage to streetlights are registered every day in each ward. This is a major concern now,” said V. Sukumar Babu, councillor of ward 105.

At present, the Corporation maintains 2.13 lakh streetlights, of which over 3.5 percent do not function on a daily basis.

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