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Safety Concerns Rise as Hazardous Power Cables Loom Over Dechentsemo Higher Secondary School

โ€ฆ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’‘๐’“๐’Š๐’๐’„๐’Š๐’‘๐’‚๐’ ๐’–๐’“๐’ˆ๐’†๐’” ๐’‘๐’“๐’๐’Ž๐’‘๐’• ๐’‚๐’„๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’‚๐’” ๐‘ฉ๐’‰๐’–๐’•๐’‚๐’ ๐‘ท๐’๐’˜๐’†๐’“ ๐‘ช๐’๐’“๐’‘๐’๐’“๐’‚๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’‚๐’…๐’…๐’“๐’†๐’”๐’”๐’†๐’” ๐’‘๐’๐’•๐’†๐’๐’•๐’Š๐’‚๐’ ๐’“๐’Š๐’”๐’Œ๐’” ๐’˜๐’Š๐’•๐’‰ ๐’Š๐’๐’”๐’–๐’๐’‚๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’Ž๐’†๐’‚๐’”๐’–๐’“๐’†๐’”

Susmika Subba

Electric cable wires running between the academic block and staff room, extending to the laboratory area and over the school parking entry, are raising concerns about potential safety risks at Dechentsemo Higher Secondary School in Thinleygang under Punakha Dzongkhag.

The cable wires, positioned at a height of about 7 meters above the ground near the parking area and approximately 1 meter from the academic and other blocks, have become a source of worry. The risk becomes more evident when large trucks transporting firewood and buses loaded with passengers navigate the school’s access road. The cable wire, placed precariously at various points across the campus, poses a significant threat during such instances, prompting concerns about potential accidents or damage.

Principal of Dechentsemo Higher Secondary School has voiced concerns regarding the safety and security of students and staff due to the presence of 33kv cables running over the school and road near the parking area of the school gate. He emphasized the need for action, stating, โ€œMany students and staff would get electrocuted if the leaning poles above the office fell with cables landing on the road.โ€

Despite notifications and observations made by audit officials in 2018, limited progress has been observed. However, a positive development has recently occurred, with Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) initiating the clearing of trees and bushes beneath and along the cable line.

A BPC official clarified that the recent clearing of vegetation is a routine maintenance practice rather than a specific response to the issues related to the cable line near the school. The official stated, “Timely clearing is crucial, as neglecting these tasks can result in a heavier workload in the future, leading to increased outages due to disruptions caused by vegetation within the Right of Way (RoW). All other maintenance activities, including pole paintings, are conducted simultaneously with RoW clearing to minimize power outages for our customers. This comprehensive approach is an annual practice carried out across all parts of the country by Bhutan Power Corporation.”

The principal recounted an incident during preparations for the Riwo Saang Choe Choe event at the school. Lhakpa, a student carrying a metal prayer flag, accidentally came into contact with the electric field of the cable. This resulted in him being thrown onto the drain, hitting his head on the road, and losing consciousness. Prompt response from the Disaster Coordinator prevented more severe injuries. The incident occurred near the parking road where the cables run overhead, emphasizing the urgency of taking action. The principal expressed, โ€œThe accident underscores the need for immediate measures, especially near the parking road where the cables are positioned dangerously close. We can’t afford to wait for action only after multiple lives are lost in situations that could have been prevented. We are eagerly awaiting resolution regarding the cable and the leaning pylon over us.โ€

In response to the safety concerns raised by the Principal, a BPC official acknowledged the cables’ existence, stating, “Regarding the cable wire overhead the school, it was already there from the beginning, and the principal of the school did inform us about the safety and the security of their students, but it was only after the incident regarding the student being injured due to the flagpole touching the cable wire.”

Following recent safety concerns at Dechentsemo Higher Secondary School, discussions were held between the school’s principal, vice-principal, and officials from the Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) to address potential electrical hazards on the premises.

The school officials and BPC collectively considered possible solutions for the cable wire issue. The consensus was reached that the cable wire could either be shifted to another location or insulated. However, due to logistical challenges in relocating the cable, it was decided to insulate the wire.

An official from BPC said, โ€œUpon visiting the school on November 24 for further investigation, we observed that the cable wire, at a height of 7 meters, exceeded our typical intervention threshold of 5 meters above the ground. Insulating the wire posed challenges related to wind and the building’s structure. After discussion with the school principal, it was decided to lift the wire higher to approximately 9-10 meters, with immediate action initiated on the same day.”

In addition to addressing the cable wire issue, BPC conducted a comprehensive inspection of the school’s electrical infrastructure, including the meter box, electric distribution pillar, and other cable wires. The inspection revealed unsafe practices, such as exposed wires in the meter box and other places. The BPC official said, “We have communicated these findings to the school and provided recommendations to ensure the safety of students, staff, and the public.”

The inspection also identified non-functional streetlights, posing potential risks. The BPC official emphasized the removal of such lights for safety reasons. The school principal had previously written to the dzongkhag about the cable wire issue, prompting a clarification from the BPC official, who stated, “Instead of contacting dzongkhag, the school should reach out to us directly for prompt resolution.” The BPC official reassured that if there is no prompt action from the dzongkhag, the school can contact BPC directly for assistance in rectifying the situation and ensuring the safety of the school premises.

Dechentsemo Higher Secondary School caters to around 200 students and 40 staff members.

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