Power transmission towerThe explosions at Moozhiyar and pipeburst at Panniar hydroelectrict generation stations that killed seven people (four at Moozhiyar and three at Panniar) were accidents that could have been avoided. The accidents were the results of gross negligence in maintenance.

In fact, all generating stations under the State Electricity Board suffers from want of timely maintenance. This not only causes loss of lives but heavy financial losses too in terms of subsequent repair costs and loss of power generation (both from lower efficiencies and shut down). Accidents are rare in well-maintained hydel generating stations.

The accident at Moozhiyar was waiting to happen (so also was that at Panniar). The gap between the rotor and stator of the generating unit had been widening for sometime. But the authorities did not take it as a warning signal. The generating station also lacked proper alarm and safety systems including fire safety systems. According to reports, fires could not be controlled even after fire service personnnel arrived.

At Panniar, the pen stocks had coroded and that had not happened overnight. The accident at Panniar also pointed to lack of training. The workers who attempted to plug the leakage of penstocks apparantly did not know how to do it safely. They closed the valves letting in water into the generators without closing the inlet and not thinking of the (water) hammering.

Though State Electricity Board officials had been going to Canada often for so called training, the Board had been depending on suppliers and outside consultaties to solve even minor maintenance/ repair problems. For years, the Board has not cared to keep its civil and electrical engineers well-trained and competent.

Many of its power stations are overstaffed by modern standards. Fewer personnel are required at power stations these days, if modern control systems are installed. The can even be managed remotely.