The peoples’ confidence in The Ceylon Electricity Board for the supply of electricity for their daily needs shattered after the recent breakdown of electricity following the explosion of the Biyagama Electrical transformer and the subsequent explosion of the transformer at the Kotugoda sub station.
Added to these breakdown the inefficiency in the administration of Lakshapana, Victoria, Kotmale power stations, we witnessed during our visits denotes the great responsibility the CEB is facing in rebuilding the peoples’ confidence again.
According to the information available a recently appointed engineer and his daughter engineer are responsible for the breakdown of electricity supply that occurred a month ago. Meanwhile, some other engineers had helped to save these two engineers of their responsibility.
It is also revealed that the engineers failed to re-supply the electricity which was recovered at 6.30 p.m. the same day of the explosion in Biyagama on 13.
Employees of the CEB complain that the lack of experience of the engineers handling operations of these power centres has contributed to the frequent breakdown of power supply. At the time of transformer explosion at Biyagama a recently appointed engineer who lacked practical knowledge had been deployed for duty at the place. They say engineers with at least 10 years experience have to be in charge of the main sub power stations and the Major power stations.
In incidents like a transformer explosion, the transmission of power is disconnected in a millionth second. However these devices had failed to work at the time. The engineers on duty at the time could have practically done the disconnection without waiting for instructions.
In addition to that they have also failed to take necessary actions to continue the supply of electricity after the breakdown. This failure has resulted in the second breakdown as well.
Due to the negligence in carrying out proper maintenance work more breakdowns are yet to occur in the future. Victoria and Lakshpana Power Stations seem more vulnerable for these risks.
Several leakages have been observed on two of the three pipe lines that carry water from the pressure generator at the Victoria Reservoir to the turbines at the Victoria Power Station. Although the leakages look relatively small due to the low water level in the reservoir water gushes out with high pressure at times when the water levels are high.
It was also revealed that these water lines are corroding around the leaking points due to lack of maintenance. Although these water lines are said to have a lifetime of 200 years lack of proper maintenance has considerably reduced their usage period as observed. However, a large amount of money had been budgeted for the purpose of maintenance from time to time.
There are 7 engineers, 6 superintendents, and several maintenance workers working at the Victoria Power Station but they have not paid attention to these leaks which could result in a major disaster depending on the pressure of water.
The turbines of the power station are located at the ground floor of a five storeyed building where a leakage of lubricant has also been observed.
Even the security arrangements around the pressure generator in the reservoir is inadequate. Although there are army officials deployed outside the pressure generator there is no easy access for them to the pressure generator. There are also complaints as to whether the equipments imported spending millions of rupees for the use of CEB are being properly used. If a proper audit is conducted all illegal transactions could be revealed. The engineers have received foreign training on operations of these plants however they have tended to operate these plants with more manual procedures inactivating the inbuilt auto systems of the plants employees said.
The spill gates at the Lakshapana reservoir are corroded and repairs and maintenance on them had not been done for a long time. And the engineers who went on foreign training for the operation of the plants at the power stations are not deployed for service today. There had been numerous irregularities in selecting CEB officials for the foreign trainings.
When we inquired about this matter the retired Engineer T.A. Sunil said there was no explosion of the transformer at the Biyagama Sub Station and it is neither a sabotage and the improper maintenance had caused the problem. No repairs had been done on this transformer since 1998. Engineers of the CEB should hold responsibility for a series of these discrepancies and negligence he said. He suggested the possibility of re-installation of the exploded transformer after examining and rehabilitation.
Deputy Minister of Power and Renewable energy Ajith P. Perera said short term and mid term solutions have been planned and a course of action would follow after studying the report of the sub committee appointed.
The CEB General Manager M.C. Wickremasekera explained when we asked him. Now the electricity supply has come to normal. But there are some restrictions as government has decided the priorities for drinking water and Yala cultivation due to the prevailing dry climate. He also said the demand for electricity has gone up due the heat experiencing all over the country.
Referring to the leakage of water from the piping lines carrying water to the turbines at Victoria he said there is no such leaking at Victoria Power Station.