Ambattur sees a flurry of activity in its neighbourhoods every day, as the suburb is still expanding. It was one of the zones to be brought under the Chennai Corporation as recently as in 2011. As part of the development of the suburb, several roads and streets are widened in the area from time to time.
If there is one major pain point despite all the efforts to ensure civic amenities, it is the location of electricity poles, distribution pillars and transformers across Ambattur. The placement of these utilities routinely defy a lot of rules and cause much inconvenience.
Electric poles in the middle of the roads are a common occurrence here. But despite many complaints by citizens, the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (TANGEDCO), the body in-charge, appears to be disinterested in relocating the poles to ensure that they are aligned with the rest of the road.
Inconveniences caused by the location of electricity poles
South Park Street in Venkatapuram witnesses public movement round-the-clock. There is an Amma Unavagam, a metro water filling point, a public library and a corporation office situated in the vicinity. The street is choked with traffic during peak hours. Making matters worse is the location of an electricity distribution pole right in the centre of the junction. Motorists find it difficult and dangerous to navigate this busy road.
A similar issue can be seen in Red Hills Road, West Balaji Nagar which is a Bus Route Road (BRR) maintained by the State Public Works Department (PWD). While the road was widened a few years ago, the electricity pole still stands upright in the same place. There is a bus stop right beside the pole and its location hinders the movement of buses.
Apartments flout rules
The authorities are not the only ones responsible for this issue. Lately, a lot of apartments have come up in this zone. The Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission’s regulation states that there should be space for installing transformers within the premises of buildings that have floor area of more than 900 square metres.
But many buildings in the area have been violating this basic norm by installing transformers outside their apartment premises. The placement of these transformers completely disregards the inconvenience caused to the public and leads to the shrinking of space for movement in the streets.
Why does this keep happening?
While I have raised a few examples in Ambattur, the issue with electricity poles, transformers and distribution pillars is the same in many parts of the city. In a majority of the cases, there is a lack of inter-departmental coordination between the Corporation/PWD/Highways and TANGEDCO.
From time to time, as the city or a specific area develops, the Corporation undertakes road widening projects for the benefit of residents. However, Corporation officials often fail to work with the TANGEDCO, or loop them in before widening the road, resulting in haphazard location of the electrical utilities.
After the road has been widened, residents face many problems as a result of the placement of these utilities. From traffic jams to blocked roads and safety hazards, there are problems galore thrown up by these.
But what good does it do if the matter is brought before TANGEDCO after the poles have been placed? From my experience, I find that they then shift the blame to the Corporation and do not heed the request of residents to rectify the issue.
How else to lodge a complaint?
While I have been emailing my concerns to the TANGEDCO for the past six months requesting for relocation of poles that pose danger, there seems to be no resolution in sight. In response to my mails, the area in-charge makes cursory visits but does not eventually act on shifting the poles. When I followed up repeatedly, the official said that they do not have sufficient funds to relocate the utilities.
I felt that raising these issues in the grievance redressal meetings would help speed up the process. But to my disappointment, I found that residents are not allowed to participate in the redressal meetings that take place every month at the area-level office. The department should take efforts to publicise the date and venue of the meeting, but this does not happen.
Before the pandemic, a TANGEDCO employee stopped me when I went to the area office for the meeting. I brought it to the notice of the officer who heads the area, but he was not keen to make the meetings open either. So we must ask, if not for the residents of the neighbourhood, whom do they conduct the meetings for?
So far, there has been only one instance of swift action on the part of TANGEDCO in response to my many complaints. When l raised the issue of a few poles placed in the middle of the road in Abhiramapuram, the relocation took place within a few weeks.
But the question remains: how long should I follow-up with the department to relocate hundreds of poles found all over Ambattur? Only the authorities concerned can answer.
(As told to Bhavani Prabhakar)