Installation of Underground cable in Sylhet and my concerns

Recently Sylhet City Corporation has been in the news for becoming the first city in Bangladesh to install a pilot project underground cable and the process of installing throughout the whole City Corporation is going on in full swing. This is a piece of great news for people living in Sylhet and progress for Bangladesh as a whole. This installation is giving us hope about living in a city without any overhead lines obstructing our views.

But it also gets me worried. You may think what is there to be worried? Routing cables through underground will enhance our safety by removing the chance of cables getting torn and falling on the open road, especially during rainy seasons. But there are many other implications of installing underground cables considering our behavior and practices as a nation.

One of the major concerns of me is that we are only thinking in terms of the advantages of underground cables. No one is discussing the disadvantages of underground cables- of which there are plenty. One of the main disadvantages is maintenance. Apart from being very expensive to install, underground cables are notoriously hard at maintenance. The main reason being the cables are underground and to check for any issues we need to dig and check, whereas overhead lines can be inspected visually easily. This means that if due to any issue the cables get damaged the power outage will be longer and more expensive. This situation is made complicated if for some reason the trench made for underground cables is not properly documented and there is not enough entry point to access the cables for maintenance. Both the things I doubt there will be plenty.

Another issue is that we as a nation have a great affinity to dig in the roads as our wish. Peoples and departments which dig in the roads rarely check for plans of the roads and what is under the road. The digging of roads has a dangerous implication of unknowingly digging over the underground cable trenches while digging for another purpose. This can result in easy damage to the cables and more importantly has the possibility of digging directly into live conductor and accidental death by electric shock.

The trenches being made for underground cables are on the sides of roads and after the roads are expanded, the trenches will be inside the main roads so any maintenance effort will result in digging inside the roads and can easily trickle down road congestion.

There are also several more hazards of underground cabling which I am not going to discuss in this post, which also is equally likely to occur and incur damages.

I know that my worries may be silly and also some of the concerns raised by me may have already been taken by the planner and engineers designing the project. But the reality is my concerns are justified because technical information about the project is scarce and as an engineer, I can visualize in my mind how dangerous minor mismanagement in the project can be.

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