Lights out: Gurugram streets dark, unsafe
Nearly 60% of streetlights in Gurugram don’t work because of irregular upkeep, say residents. Civic body officials say they are installing 57,000 new LED lights across the city.gurgaon Updated: Jun 08, 2018 08:18 IST
Despite the rapid progress of the past few years, significant stretches of Gurugram are areas of darkness. The city has been plagued by the issue of inadequate and erratic streetlighting, with large parts not being illuminated despite having electrical connectivity.
According to the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG), the city has 49,000 streetlights. Another 8,000 LED streetlights are being added while the sodium vapour bulbs are in the process of being upgraded to LED. While this is an improvement, the city needs a lot more streetlights and much better maintenance.
Until 2008, streetlights in Gurugram were handled by Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), Haryana State Industry and Infrastructure Corporation (HSIIDC) and Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitram Nigam (DHBVN). The lack of coordination among these agencies meant poor maintenance and shifting of blame when it came to accountability for malfunctioning streetlights.
In 2008, MCG was set up and it shouldered the bulk of the responsibility of lighting up Gurugram. The power for streetlights is supplied by DHBVN. The problem in this arrangement is that the two organisations have struggled to work with each other and the citizens of Gurugram are the ones who pay the price.
In 2012, DHBVN disconnected power supply to several community centres, streetlights, and tubewells owned by the MCG, as a penalty for non payment of dues. Two years later, in December 2014, the DHBVN sent notification to the MCG, warning the civic body that it was drawing more than its allowed amount from low-tension lines to supply power for streetlights.
With the two bodies refusing to reach an understanding, Palam Vihar, and sectors 14 and 22 were left without power for weeks. A similar situation arose in May 2017, when the DHBVN said the MCG was drawing more power than its alloted amount to illuminate streets in Sikanderpur and DLF Phases 1,2 and 3. The area suffered a power cut for six days.
More recently, in February 2017, the DHBVN claimed the MCG had not paid its dues and cut off electricity supply to 70 streetlights in Sector 28. The MCG was charged a Rs28 lakh fine, and 40 streetlights in DLF Phase 3 remained without power for more than a week.
The issue of dues may seem perplexing as the MCG is the richest civic body in Haryana and has a surplus of Rs2,000 crores in its treasury, as announced by Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar last month.
“It is a common practice of the DHBVN to cut off power supply to some of our facilities whenever we raise our demand for clearance of property tax dues from them. The matter is then taken to the higher authorities such as the Urban Local Bodies, and power supply is resumed and DHBVN pays a portion of its dues in return,” a senior MCG official said on the condition of anonymity.
DHBVN officials said that they have a mutual understanding with the MCG over payment of dues, and resume power supply after dues are cleared. “Whenever we question MCG officials about the nonpayment of dues, they instead blame us for not paying property tax dues. It is only when both parties reach a consensus that the matter gets resolved. At present, however, the MCG does not owe DHBVN any dues, as per my knowledge,” said KC Aggarwal, superintending engineer (operations), DHBVN.
Poor infrastructure and theft have also been impediments to the development of better streetlighting in the city. In December 2017, the MCG embarked, in collaboration with Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), on a project to replace the sodium vapour bulbs of the existing 49, 000 streetlights with more efficient LED bulbs.Officials discovered that the infrastructure was not capable of handling this update at many spots.
“The sodium vapour streetlights had several flaws. Aside from being high on power consumption, its material is ill equipped to withstand power fluctuations, which is widely prevalent across the city, as a result several of these broke. Even the switches and electric lining were exposed in the open, which made it susceptible to theft,” Yashpal Yadav, MCG commissioner, said.
Consequently, the MCG was forced to revise the entire project and invest more money than was initially budgeted.
“The issue with authorities in Gurugram is that it caters to the elite and does not take into account the difficulties faced by pedestrians and those in desperate need of streetlights. The city is patchily developed and hence facilities such as streetlights have taken a back seat,” said Mukta Naik, senior researcher at Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi said.