Constantly under fire for transformers taking up space meant for pedestrians on footpaths, the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) has come up with a two-pronged strategy to fend off criticism.
The power utility has begun shifting some transformers from footpaths to CA sites or government buildings nearby. Where there is no such option, it is implementing the new design for transformers, which are raised from the surface of the footpaths. However, so far, less than 1,500 transformers on footpaths have been shifted or redesigned.
Bescom has as many as 49,000 transformers in Bengaluru, of which 7,953 are on footpaths.
Of these, the number of transformers identified to be shifted to CA sites and government buildings is 4,035. As many as 404 have been shifted. As for the 3,918 transformers identified to be replaced with the new-design transformers, 925 have been shifted, a Bescom official said.
Church Street tragedy
The controversy over the risk that transformers on pavements pose broke out in 2013 when Manoj Vasanthrao Patil, 37, who was the vice-president in Sundaram Auto Component, was walking on Church Street along with a friend to reach the M. Chinnaswamy stadium to watch an IPL match. He was trying to cross a puddle of water when he lost his balance and caught hold of the fence of a transformer, which allegedly caused an electric shock.
The Karnataka High Court, hearing a petition in which the family members of a victim sought compensation, then directed the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the power utility to find out the number of transformers installed on footpaths and roads, and submit a report indicating the time required to relocate them. Though Bescom initially expressed difficulty in shifting all of them, it has begun the process.
Sathya Sankaran from Citizens For Sustainability said the crux of the problem was that transformers were occupying space meant for pedestrians. “When they do occupy the space, it is kind of dangerous the way they are built, and because it is electrical equipment. Even the single pole transformers sometimes are not at an appropriate height. For example, in Sanjaynagar, it is at less than 6 feet height,” he said, adding that the power utility should look at talking to owners of private properties who are willing to spare space for public use.
Sunish Jauhari, founder of Concern for Road Safety and Pedestrian Safety (CoRPS), said the larger problem was that different civic agencies were not talking to each other. “The BBMP, for example, has to ensure safe footpaths. Bescom or BWSSB come in next,” he said.
New KERC guidelines may help
The Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) has found reprieve in new guidelines from the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC). New buildings being constructed on area between 500 and 800 sq. ft. with a requisitioned load above 25 kW and below 35 kW now have to reserve space for transformers free of cost or go for self-execution transformers with effect from February 1, 2018.
“This rule was relaxed in 2013-14 by extending the clause to 800 sq. ft. and above, or 35 kW. But this has been reduced again to 500 to 800 sq. ft. and 25 to 35 kW. The Urban Development Department has taken a decision to impose such conditions on builders, as the court has directed that there should be no transformers on the footpath,” said a Bescom official.