THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: High mast lamps have caught the fancy of many an elected representative with the result that every major junction in the capital now flaunts one. Besides being showcased as a symbol of ‘development’, the high mast lamps also ensure lifetime publicity for the MP or MLA from whose development fund it was set up. But are these towering structures sanctioned on the basis of actual requirement?
Faced with huge power bills due to indiscriminate setting up of high mast lamps, the city Corporation recently urged elected representatives to exercise discretion while sanctioning funds for the utility. What followed was a huge ruckus at the Corporation council meeting the other day in which the Mayor and a few councillors were injured.
According to urban development expert Anil Kumar Pandala, a high level of discretion should be exercised while sanctioning high mast lamps. These should come up only in major intersections or junctions where regular street lights are not effective in ensuring visibility. The 42-km stretch of city roads, developed by the Thiruvananthapuram Road Development Company Ltd (TRDCL) have only 12 high mast lamps and these were installed after normal street lights failed to ensure visibility.
“High mast lamps should be avoided as much as possible in the urban landscape,” Pandala said. The light pollution caused by such lamps is often not taken into account.
In many places, drivers are blinded by the glaring light. When installed near residential areas, it disturbs the sleep pattern of the public besides generating huge power bills for the civic body.Vattiyoorkavu MLA K Muraleedharan said he had turned down dozens of applications seeking assistance to set up high mast lamps. “In my current stint as MLA, I have allocated funds for only five high mast lamps. This was done after visiting the site and being thoroughly convinced the requirement was genuine,” said Muraleedharan.
High costs, low returns
The sodium vapour high mast lamps set up by TRDCL cost R4 lakh per unit. However, the expense of installing high mast lamps using MP and MLA funds is between R6 lakh and R9 lakh. An LED high mast lamp is slightly costlier. “Setting up of high mast lamps has become an avenue to earn an extra buck for various people involved. This explains why there is a surge of applications for these lamps. As a result, we now have high mast lamps set up at the most irrelevant places in the city,” said a source.According to experts, around 18-20 sodium vapour street lights can be installed with the money allocated for a single high mast lamp. This will ensure visibility in more areas, they added.
Power bill struggle
Though most of the high mast lamps are installed using MLA and MP funds, the onus of footing the huge power bills lies with the civic body. According to estimates, the Corporation has to pay around R7,000 a month for each high mast lamp. With the introduction of LED high mast lamps, the power bill has come down by nearly half. But many LED lamps have serious maintenance issues. “Most of the high mast lamps are installed in unsuitable areas in the city. These lamps have come up even in narrow lanes and places with thick tree cover. It’s high time we put an end to this unscientific practice,” said Mayor V K Prasanth.