More than a month since Tauktae hit Gujarat, power yet to be restored in Amreli’s Shiyal Bet

MORE THAN a month after Taukate hit the Saurashtra coast and damaged houses and snapped power and communication lines, around 6,000 residents of Shiyal Bet, a tiny island off the Pipavav port in Amreli district, are still without electricity with officers of the company which distributes power in Saurashtra saying efforts are on to rectify it.

Grid power supply to Shiyal Bet was disrupted on May 17 as the cyclone approached the coast and made landfall between Una in Gir Somnath district and Mahuva in Bhavnagar.

Amreli, lying in between these two districts, had witnessed maximum damage among the three with almost all of its more than 620 villages experiencing blackout.

The Paschim Gujarat Vij Company Limited (PGVCL), the state government-owned company which distributes power in Saurashtra, Kutch and parts of north Gujarat regions, has since restored power to every village.

However, around 6,000 islanders continue to live in darkness as the PCVCL is still working to restore grid power to the islet.

“Life is very difficult without power supply. We are not able to distribute drinking water to households. People have batteries and solar panels. But they barely last for two hours after nightfall. No power means a curfew on the island in the evening,” Hamir Shiyal, former sarpanch of Shiyal Bet village panchayat, told The Indian Express over phone on Friday.

Hamir’s wife Bhanu is incumbent sarpanch of Shiyal Bet. The island falls in Jafrabad taluka of Amreli district. The aerial distance from the busy Pipavav port to Shiyal Bet is just 1.5 km.

Till 2016, Shiyal Bet was the only place in Gujarat with significant human population but no grid power. The state government, however, had laid a six-kilometre-long marine cable between Chanch Bandar harbour and Shiyal Bet to supply grid power to the inhabitants of the island and then Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel had inaugurated the project in June 2016.

The former sarpanch said that due to lack of electricity, supply of drinking water to around 820 families living on the 70-hectare islet has also remained disrupted. “A marine pipeline which used to pump Narmada water to Shiyal Bet was damaged in the cyclone and therefore, we do not have enough supply to distribute to households through taps.

However, two open wells belonging to Shiyal Bet village panchayat has potable water and people are drawing water from it on their own. Unless powerlines and the pipeline are repaired, we shall not be able to pump water to taps of households,” Hamir said.

Kanji Shiyal, a resident of the island, said life has changed since the cyclone. “I am not even able to keep my phone battery charged all the time,” he said.

Most of residents of Shiyal Bet are fishermen while a few also work as agricultural labourers. Hamir said that around 150 families have neither solar power generating units nor diesel-powered generator sets. “They are dependent on kerosene lamps for illuminating their houses at night,” said the former sarpanch.

Kashyap Dabhi, sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of Rajula, said efforts were on to restore power and water supply lines. “The cyclone damaged marine cable and marine pipeline. As these lines are on the seafloor, their restoration is a highly technical job and is taking time therefore. Residents of Shiyal Bet are drawing water from around 25 private handpumps and two wells in which potable water is available,” Dabhi said.

Jafrabad taluka falls into Rajula sub-division of Amreli district.

Dhimantkumar Dave, the the newly-appointed PGVCL managing director visited Amreli on Friday and reviewed the ongoing work of restoring power to Shiyal Bet and farmers of Amreli. “Power is transmitted to Shiyal Bet via marine cable.

The cable has some issues and restoring it is a specialised job. So, it wil take some time,” Dave said.

PGVCL officers in Amreli said they apprehend the marine cable has developed a fault. “The cyclone had damaged RMUs (ring main units, a switch board which connects grids) at Chanch Bandar as well as on Shiyal Bet and their RCC (reinforced cement concrete) foundations were also damaged. We have since rebuilt the foundations reinstalled RMUs. However, during tests, conductors in the marine cables are showing variation in resistance values, indicating, possibly some fault,” a PGVCL engineer in Amreli said.

The cable was laid by Delite Cables Private Limited, a Vaodara-based private firm in the business of manufacturing cables.

The marine cable clamped to the seafloor by the contractor had four conductors. “Supplying grid power requires only three conductors and the marine cable had one spare conductor. However, one the conductors had developed fault six months before the cyclone,” the PGVCL engineer said.

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