It may sound strange, but the gigantic network of high-tech installations responsible for bringing electricity to the Capital is rendered completely powerless whenever Delhiites decide to fly kites.
In yet another such instance on Monday, the 247-MW Indraprastha Power plant and the 135-MW Rajghat Power plant — two pillars of Delhi’s power generation — shut down for a couple of ours when two kites got entangled in the high-tension transmission cables in Patparganj and Geeta Colony in East Delhi and caused local short-circuits.
As a result, residents of central Delhi districts like Connaught Place and thereabout, some areas in South Delhi and some places in North Delhi had to face power-cuts in the afternoon.
Kite is usually flown with strings that are coated with a mixture of glue and glass powder known as manja that make the strings sharp. It is this manja that proves to be too much for the power lines. “The manja is a good conductor of electricity. Snapped kites with their long strings get entangled in the high-tension supply lines and the manja causes short-circuits, or sparks. As a defense, local substations immediately trip or disconnect link with the line causing failure in supply,” said S.R. Sethi, Director (Operations), Delhi Transco.
Short circuit has the potential of causing overheating, circuit damage, fire, or even explosion in the entire installation. Thus, power plants are shut down as a safety measure.
The problem is at its worst during Independence Day, when Delhi celebrates with kites.
On I-Day last year there were 137 cases of local lines snapping supply due to short-circuit from manja.
Ironically, no amount of new-age technology has been able to defend power installations from this age-old, otherwise harmless act of celebrations. The high-tension cables (220-KV and 66-KV), where short-circuits occur, cannot be coated with insulation material. “Being high-voltage wires, they tend to heat up and need frequent cooling. If they are coated with anything, they will heat up more. So it is a technical impossibility,” said a power department official.
The only solution is to lay the wires underground, but that is an expensive proposition. “It is 10 times more expensive than overhead wiring,” he added. Sections 139 and 140 of the Electricity Act, 2003, and Section 9 of Delhi Police Act have provisions for punishment to those who cause trippings with kites or any other means. The maximum penalty could be 10 years in prison, but no one has been arrested so far.
Since nothing really works against this menace, the entire establishment — the distcoms, Delhi Power Department and Delhi Transco—publish advertisements in the media prior to August 15 and pray for the best.
“This year, too, we will advise people not to fly kites near high-tension wires or any congested area. But if past experiences are to go by, it helps little,” SR Sethi said.