More power to Elephanta

An undersea cable brings electricity to 1,200 villagers on the famed island off Mumbai

Gajanan Khergamker | June 26, 2018


#Mumbai Port Trust   #Maharashtra CM   #Devendra Fadnavis   #Gharapuri   #power   #electricity   #Elephanta caves  
Photo: Gajanan Khergamker
Photo: Gajanan Khergamker

The Elephanta island, or Gharapuri, to use its original name, is the site of the Elephanta caves, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and receives more than 20 lakh tourists every year. However, the three villages on the island, home to about 1,200 people, have not had electricity since independence. The island lies hardly 10 km from Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, but the villagers lived in darkness – a shame, and a mark of administrative and political apathy. Neither the media nor rights groups played up this fact.
 
But now, the islanders need not complain. In February this year, electricity was delivered to the island via a 7.5 km undersea cable. The electrification project cost Rs 25 crore and took the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company some 15 months to complete. The laying of the cable itself took three months. Each of the three villages on the island has a transformer, and six high-mast streetlights about 13 metres high. Electricity connections have been provided to 200 domestic users and a few commercial consumers.
 
At a function held on the island, social reformer Appasaheb Dharmadhikari switched on the power supply. The function was attended by Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, ministers Chandrashekhar Bawankule, Jaykumar Raval, Ravindra, and others. The task of electrifying the Elephanta island was part of prime minister Narendra Modi’s target of electrification of all of India within 1,000 days of his term. The target was achieved in 987 days, with Leisang in Manipur becoming the ‘last village’ to be added to the power grid on April 28.
 

A woman happily poses with her television set
A woman happily poses with her television set

The prime minister described it as a “new beginning of a period of development” for the 1,200 people living on the island, mostly involved in fishing, farming, boat repairs and tourism-related activities. “There is no greater contentment and joy than the fact that the lives of the countrymen be full of shine and there be happiness in their lives,” he said, echoing their sentiments.
 
Incidentally, the 22-KV undersea cable has four lines, including one standby line ensuring round-the-clock power to the islanders with excess capacity to meet requirements for more than 30 years. The cable has been connected directly with the MSEDCL’s Olwa sub-station, Panvel division, in Raigad on the mainland. The cable connection is expected to speed up work on the proposed 8-km ropeway connecting Mumbai directly with the Elephanta island. The project, planned by the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), will give tourists a thrill to remember their visit to Elephanta. A water filtration plant may also be set up on the island so that islanders can have access to safe, clean drinking water from a small dam on the 16 sq km island.
 
And now, in May 2018, when the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) released the draft coastal regulation zone (CRZ) maps for Raigad district, environmentalists were up in arms. The mangrove areas in Taloja, Kamothe and Gharapuri island have, in the draft maps, been marked as Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) II – areas that have already been developed up to or close to the shoreline where authorised constructions are allowed – enabling developers to work in the area. The environmentalists maintain that Gharapuri island, renowned for its centuries-old Elephanta caves, needs to be preserved as an open space and kept away from any development.
 

An electricity meter at one of the houses on the island
An electricity meter at one of the houses on the island

It is alleged that the Fadnavis government is now trying to open up the Elephanta island for development. While CRZ-I covers ecologically sensitive areas within 100 metres of the high-tide line where no development is allowed, CRZ-III covers areas within 500 metres of the high-tide line and are considered no-development zones. CRZ-II covers areas within 500 metres of the high-tide line but are already developed, for example, Marine Drive in South Mumbai.
 
The environmentalist lobby, bolstered by political opposition, is now all set to oppose the CRZ-II maps by filing “detailed objections” to “resist any construction activity” on the island. “This is a ploy to allow five-star hotels and resorts to come up on the island,” maintains an activist on grounds of anonymity. “This government has been attempting to further commercial interests while compromising local needs and without taking into consideration fragile environmental issues.”
 
But the islanders are happy to join the development bandwagon, and with good reason. For years, they have faced a huge survival crisis without power. Scores of islanders have died owing to lack of immediate medical attention in case of crisis such as snake bites, heart attacks and so on. The arrival of electricity on the island could mean the arrival of a health centre, with the means to store vaccines and other life-saving medicines. Access to clean drinking water, hygiene and safety, education and entertainment closely associated with the right to life is now within reach. 
 
feedback@governancenow.com
(The article appears in June 30, 2018 edition)

Comments

 

Other News

Evaluating public-private partnership, the right way

Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) projects are always under scrutiny, given the options of alternative of traditional procurement for the government. The value-for-money debate is one of the essential parameters to judge any PPP. In the absence of any credible data on this regard, it is very difficult to e

Electoral bonds emerge as preferred mode of political donation

Electoral bonds, introduced in January 2018 to bring in transparency in political funding, has emerged as the preferred route for making donations to parties, according to an analysis of the parties’ audit reports by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR). “Given the anonymi

On Met Dept’s foundation day: let’s talk weather

With a humble beginning in 1875, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) – which is celebrating its 145thFoundation Day on January 15 – has marched forward with various milestones and paradigms to serve the society. When weather and climate are playing more and more role in our daily lives, h

You have to sometimes find your adversary No. 1: Prithviraj Chavan

Prithviraj Chavan, a senior Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister, is the key architect of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance that came to power after the three-day government of the BJP, supported by Ajit Pawar of NCP, fell apart just before the supreme court ordered an open b

Connecting the dots: Environmentalism, development and health

Every winter Delhi experiences some of the worst air pollution levels in the world. Concentrations of particulate matter – PM10 and PM2.5 – regularly hover around values of 400 to 500, levels that are considered extremely hazardous by both Indian and international air quality standards. Doctors

Stimulate demand to revive economy: Abhijit Banerjee

Nobel laureate economist Abhijit Banerjee has sounded an alarm on the economic crisis and compared the present situation to the 1991 economic crisis, stressing that to revive the economy it is important to stimulate demand. Like elsewhere in the world, the level of trust in experts and the e



Archives

Current Issue

Video

CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter