Varanasi frees up its skies, by making its electricity distribution network completely underground

The holy city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh has achieved the distinction of becoming a ‘wireless city’ after the implementation of a project to lay down underground power lines, in an area of 16 sq km. This has resulted in the removal existing overhead power cables, potentially making the narrow alleyways of the city de-congested to a certain extent. This is a snapshot of a Varanasi alley before and after the project’s completion:

Varanasi becomes a 'wireless city' after its electricity distribution network goes completely underground
Before and after underground power cables were laid in Varanasi. Via @TOI

This project was spearheaded by state-owned power company named “Powergrid”, which laid the cables for about 50,000 consumers over a period of two years. As per Sudhakar Gupta, the project manager of the company’s integrated power development scheme (IPDS), Varanasi was the most complicated city to lay the infrastructure for underground cables.

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The project began in September 2015 and was marked complete in December last year. All this while it was monitored by former power minister Piyush Goyal and has roughly cost Rs 432 crores. Goyal had earlier claimed that the project would be completed in a year, but it stretched longer owning to actual requirement and proposal.

The challenges encountered during the project included having to use small pedestal boxes as switch boxes. The troubles were also caused due to no map existing for the city’s existing underground network like sewage, water supply lines and BSNL’s telephonic network. The state-run telecom operator even continually demanded compensation for their network getting damaged during the implementation.

Apart from underground cables, eleven substations have been modernised and two new ones are being constructed. As per the Managing Director of Purvanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited, the electricity wastage has come down from 42.7% to 9.9% and consumer complaint too has seen a reduction.

Since PM Modi becoming an MP from Varanasi, the city has seen at least 17 new projects getting inaugurated. Some of the projects include a trauma centre, two ghat bridges, a microfinance bank and the Mahamana express.

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