FOR THE residents of the three villages on Elephanta Island, August 15 was a much-awaited date. The state government had announced that the island — which even after 70 years of independence did not have access to electricity — will finally have 24×7 electricity supply from August 15.
Another deadline has passed but the villages continue to remain in darkness. So far, the island, 25 kilometre from Mumbai, receives electricity only for a few hours in the day through generators. Officials from the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited said the project is underway but will take another six months to complete. “The cables through the sea were first to be from Gateway of India. It was found that it may not be feasible, but now seven-kilometre long cables will be installed from Nhava Sheva at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust till the island,” said Vishwas Pathak, director MSEDCL.
Pathak said consultants were appointed with expertise to decide on the laying of the cables through the sea. “We have issued letter of interests to manufacture cables,” he said.
Pathak added that this would be the first phase of the Rs 20-crore project in the villages at the Elephanta Caves, a UNESCO world heritage site. The phase two will include floating of a tender for the cable to be transferred to the island. The island has an approximate population of 1,200 residing in three villages — Shetbunder, Morabunder and Rajbunder.
The residents who are largely dependent on tourism for their sustenance, receive electricity from 7pm to 10 pm through generators, for which they pay Rs 150.
Many residents continued to remain apprehensive despite the assurance of electricity made six months ago by State Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule. Some villagers said only when a light bulb is lit at the island without generators, will they believe the promises made.
“There have been many promises made but only on papers. This time, we are hopeful since there has been activity around the project. Though it has faced a delay, once the work is done, we will receive electricity,” said sarpanch Sunil Padte.
For the villagers, the lack of electricity poses as a major hurdle with many having moved out to Uran in Navi Mumbai and other areas for education. Residents said the lack of electricity has resulted in not many people, including teachers and doctors, choosing to live on the island.
Solar lamps given to each household as the street lights — a few years ago — also became defunct due to lack of maintenance.
Pathak said the delay was caused in completing the survey and the project is expected to finish in the next six months.