Lead-sheathed underground cables here to stay, says Power Ministry

ksenia kondratieva Mumbai | Updated on March 04, 2019

The Centre has declined to ban Indian power and transmission utilities from using high-voltage power cables containing toxic chemical — lead — while laying the underground transmission lines.

The CII had, in December last year, called for the Power Ministry's intervention as the practice led to environmental degradation and caused health problems.

In its response to the CII representation, the Ministry has, however, noted that “lead-sheathed power cables in underground application is traditionally a widely used product which is well proved and time-tested”. While “switching to greener alternatives is an obvious choice to protect the environment and address the health concerns”, power cable manufacturers need to be “encouraged to innovate more and prove that the alternatives are as rugged and reliable as lead-sheathed cables,” the letter suggested.

Vimal Kejriwal, Managing Director & CEO, KEC International Ltd, told BusinessLine: “It is a known fact that aluminium is prone to corrosion when it comes in contact with water and chemicals, which tilts the balance in favour of lead-sheathed cables, particularly in coastal areas and when chemicals are present in the soil.” He noted that there are no reports of environmental harm due to the lead sheath of EHV (extra high-voltage) cable.

‘Lobby at work’

Considering that one State installs around 120 km of lead-based EHV cables a year, the amount of lead getting buried into the ground every year could be around 840 MT (metric tonnes) just in one State.

“The lead-sheathed cables are more expensive; hence, some of the manufacturers could be benefiting from the continued domination of lead as it would allow them to maintain their topline,” said an expert.

Published on March 04, 2019

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