Snow Fury in Kashmir: PDD Orders Probe Into Tower Collapses

Srinagar- The Kashmir Power Distribution Corporation Limited (KPDCL) has ordered a probe to ascertain the reasons behind the collapse of eight transmission towers during last month’s heavy snowfall that plunged Valley into darkness.

Pertinently, this was for the first time that such a huge number of transmission towers got either damaged or collapsed due to snowfall prompting the department to initiate a probe.

Chief Engineer, Kashmir Power Transmission Corporation, Hashmat Qazi told Kashmir Observer that the department has taken notice of the matter and started an investigation.

“This needs to be investigated as to why the towers are buckling. These towers are old and we will see if there is anything that needs to be done to strengthen certain points,” Qazi said.

He said that a committee has been formed to ascertain the facts and reasons behind the sudden collapse of transmission towers.

“In most of the towers that got damaged, the foundations are intact so we are checking it,” Qazi said.

However, sources told Kashmir Observer that the transmission towers suffered damaged because they were constructed in a jiffy and without due process being followed.

“When you are put on a deadline, you avoid the due process and complete the task quickly, as a result you see a lot of technical snags and glitches,” they said.

They further said that the design of the towers needs to be checked whether they are feasible for our climatic conditions or not.

“If you design the tower similar to the towers designed in other states of the country, it will fail for sure,” the sources added.

It may be noted that in December 2019, the then Lieutenant Governor of J&K Girish Chander Murmu had directed the Power Department to conduct 100% audit of all the transmission line towers at 220 KV and 132 KV level before the start of next winter season to prevent damage to tower structures.

Murmu had asked the officials to put corrective measures in place so that people don't face any inconvenience during the winter. However, insiders said that the department failed to do so.

“Only once the in-house audit was done but I am not sure whether they have plugged the gaps,” said an official, wishing not to be named.

He further added that the audit should have been done by a third party.

The official also said that technical audit was done and the government asked the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) for investigation.

The official further said that the restoration measures were taken up by the J&K Power Transmission Corporation and temporary restoration after many days of hectic work.

He further said that the distance between tower to tower remains over 250-300 meters depending upon the terrain. If the snow accumulation is too much on the transmission line, it can damage the towers, he added

“This was actually a heavy snowfall and accumulated on the conductors of towers for a long time, otherwise they are strong enough,” the official said.

According to PDD officials, the heavy snowfall in February end damaged the three transmission towers at Balhama in Srinagar, while one tower of Budgam-Nowbugh and Chadoora Grid Station also got damaged.

They said over three electric towers carrying a transmission line of 132 KV from Mir Bazar area of south Kashmir’s Kulgam also sustained damage near Bozgam village which resulted in disruption of power supply to Kulgam and adjoining areas for a week.

At Kandizal area in Pulwama, the snow damaged 132 KV transmission tower of PDD.

A retired engineer from the PDD told Kashmir Observer before constructing towers; the department needs to carry out soil testing in these areas to check the feasibility.

“There is a lot of water retention in the soil of Kashmir and it is loose. The department needs to take these things into consideration,” he said.

Waseem Ahmad Shah, researcher at Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Kashmir told Kashmir Observer that the towers can't be constructed in wetlands and marshy lands.

"The civil engineer needs to take these things into consideration," Shah said.

Sources told Kashmir Observer that even if the towers got damaged, the department was able to restore the power supply in a short period of time with the help of Emergency Restoration System (ERS), a specialised temporary tower mechanism imported from Canada.

“We use ERC during the time of emergency to restore the power supply when the towers are damaged,” they added.

The sources further said that the department needs to procure high snow zone towers that have been installed in Pir Panjal Range and other hilly areas.

However, Hashmat Qazi told Kashmir Observer that these towers are very expensive.

“But you need to understand that the Valley witnessed a lot of snow in very little time. But having said that, while constructing towers, we calculate load factor and take safety measures as well. But this tells us that we have to take more precautions, ” he added.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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