Mumbai: Elephanta Island, located just 10 kilometres off Mumbai’s eastern shore and where the famous Unesco World Heritage Site of Elephanta Caves is located, was finally poised to join the electricity grid on Thursday, after a 70-year wait.
There are three villages — Shetbandar, Morabandar and Rajbandar — on this island also known as Gharapuri, where the locals are mostly engaged in tourism, fishing, rice cultivation and boat repairing.
For the 950 villagers who live on this island so close to India’s financial hub, life would come to a standstill after sunset since they had no electricity and depended on generators.
An experiment with solar power did not succeed since it provided power for only a limited number of hours.
Now, with the laying of four cables on the seabed, installed at a depth of 20 metres-25 metres, power would be supplied from Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd’s (MSEDCL) Nhava-Sheva power substation.
The project cost the state Rs185 million (Dh10.45 million).
On Thursday evening, a function was to be held on the island when renowned social reformer Appasaheb Dharmadhikari would formally ‘switch on’ the power supply in the presence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Union Minister Anant Geete, State Power Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule and others at Gharapuri jetty on the island.
According to an official of the MSEDCL, the undersea power cable took three months to lay and is the longest in India.
A transformer has been installed in each of the three villages as well as six street light towers with powerful LED bulbs and individual power meter connections to 200 domestic and commercial users.
Elephanta Caves contain ancient rock cut stone sculptures in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions, but much of the artwork was defaced, especially when the Portuguese, during the early colonial rule, used the sculptured panels for shooting practice.
As Mumbai developed in to a busy port in the subsequent years, the island remained a strategic point and even now a few cannon outposts can be seen.
The earliest conservation efforts dated to 1890 during the British rule.
Elephanta Caves are a popular tourist destination and the state tourism department holds a cultural festival every year during the cooler months. It can be reached by boats which ferry tourists from the Gateway of India.