I HAIL from a small village in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and am currently working as the chief electrical engineer in a consulting firm based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Whenever I visit Pakistan and go to my village, I see grave issues related to the power distribution network.

As AJK generally comprises hilly areas with houses usually scattered here and there, electricity in villages is distributed through 11KV overhead lines with pole-mounted transformers (PMTs) located at different places.

Unfortunately, the distribution has been done — and is still being done — in such a haphazard manner that no safety standards are followed. This results in many safety hazards for the residents, including fatal accidents, with overhead lines sometimes falling on the ground. In some cases, the PMTs get burnt, causing various abnormalities in the power distribution system.

The authorities concerned are requested to adhere to some minimum safety standards while executing projects. For instance, overhead lines must have proper protection devices so that if a line falls, the device trips and isolates the line. Besides, the size of PMTs should be according to the number of houses they cater to and the load they can handle.

Similarly, fuses or other protection devices at the load-side of transformers should be used as per the size of transformers to isolate them in case of overload, thus preventing them from burning out. Voltage lines should be installed at a certain height to limit the chances of children getting closer to them or touching them.

Another problem that needs to be addressed is that sometimes low-voltage overhead lines cover long distances. As a result, light-bulbs or other devices at farther locations from transformers either do not work or get burnt or damaged because of seriously low voltage.

One reason why the departments concerned sometimes do not get enough time for planning is public or political pressure to speed up the execution work. Therefore, the relevant authorities must be able to deal with such a situation and ensure minimum safety standards to avoid fatal accidents or loss of lives.

It is true that a lot of effort is needed to fix the power distribution network marred by years of mismanagement. But we have to take the first step — in the right direction, of course. However, in order to implement the discussed measures, the system needs proper planning and design before the work is started at the site.

Altaf Khan
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2022

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