In one of the worst power outages in many years, almost the whole of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad had to go without electricity for several hours on Wednesday, resulting in major disruptions in industrial and office work, water supply and traffic management.
Industry associations said the financial impact of the outage could be in the range of Rs 300-400 crore.
The outage was caused by a technical fault in the transmission lines, which electricity officials blamed on unexpectedly cold weather and fog. “The power line supplying electricity to 400 KV high-pressure sub-stations of Lonikand and Chakan of the Maharashtra State Electricity Transmission Company Limited (MSETCL) tripped at five places around 4.30 am,” an official statement issued by the power utility said.
Due to this technical fault, power supply was disrupted across Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Pune rural areas like Chakan, Wagholi and Lonikand. Full power supply could be restored only by 3.15 pm in these areas.
Due to the glitch, electricity supply to 189 sub-stations was disrupted and more than 24.18 lakh consumers were impacted.
Jayant Weekey, chief engineer of Pune zone of MSETCL, told The Indian Express that the problem was most probably caused by unexpected fog. “Due to heavy fog, the creepage distance of the insulator gets reduced beyond a certain level,” said Weekey.
Creepage distance is the shortest separation that needs to be maintained between two conductive parts in an electrical device.
“During the weather conditions like we are seeing now, fog surrounds the transmission line. There is a risk of the distance maintained in the insulator going below the minimum required. It leads to a short-circuit, and triggers faults and tripping. Generally, whenever one transmission line trips, other lines get overloaded. In this case, overloading on other lines led to faults,” he said.
Water supply in both Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad was disrupted due to the power snap. The areas of Sinhagad Road, Satara Road and Solapur Road were worst affected as the water pumping station of Vadgaon was shut down, said Annirudh Pawaskar, in-charge of the PMC water supply department. In Pimpri-Chinchwad, operations at the Ravet raw water pumping station and Nigdi water treatment plant came to halt. As a result, there was major disruption in water supply.
The power outage also badly affected the system of traffic signals across the city. A large number of the total 231 traffic signals in Pune city and 90 signals in Pimpri-Chinchwad jurisdiction remained non-functional during this period.
“The traffic flow at the signals, which stopped working due to power outage, was managed manually. Almost all of our strength of traffic police personnel and officials was deployed at the traffic junctions,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) for Pune City, Rahul Shrirame.
However, no major traffic snarls were reported, said Assistant Commissioner of Police (Traffic) for Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nandkumar Bhosle Patil.
“Because the power was out since morning, there was lower traffic volume on the streets, possibly because of comparatively fewer people going to work. After the power outage, traffic at junctions was managed manually by traffic branch personnel and traffic wardens. No traffic snarls were reported during the outage period. As the power supply was restored, the signal functioning was also restored,” he said.
Sandeep Belsare, president of the Small Scale Industries Association of Pimpri-Chinchwad, said more than 700 small industries in Pimpri Chinchwad had to go without power for several hours, and work suffered. He said it took almost eight hours to restore full power supply in all parts of industrial areas, resulting in one entire day’s loss of production in many places.
“The total financial loss to these units is estimated to be in the range of Rs 300-400 crore,” he said.
Schools across the city reported low attendance, especially for online classes. Gayatri Jakkan, principal of the Priyadarshini Group of School’s Bhosari branch, said only half the students these days have been coming for offline classes in school, and the rest have been attending online classes.
“The attendance in online classes was badly affected, as students faced network issues,” she said.