By Edify Hamukale
Given the dense human populations of Zambia’s major cities, perhaps time has come when Electricity supply companies should consider using underground cables to replace overheard cables to convey electricity over shorter distances. Apart from creating less visual and environmental impact, which typically generates large opposition from local communities, underground cables have several other unique benefits. In particular, they have lower transmission losses, can absorb emergency power loads, have lower maintenance costs, emit no electric fields and can be engineered to emit a lower magnetic field than an overhead line, require a narrower band of land to install and are less susceptible to the impacts of severe weather,
Underground cables would be suitable in densely populated urban areas, Communities where land is unavailable or planning consent is difficult to obtain within an acceptable timeframe, waterways and other natural obstacles, land with outstanding natural or environmental heritage or vulnerable eco-systems, historically or culturally important sites or buildings, areas of significant or prestigious infrastructure development and land whose value must be maintained for future urban expansion or rural development.
Wooden straight poles that are being used for conveying electricity could be used for other construction works and thus help lower the price of construction timber because there would be less competition for their use. ZESCO consumes a significant volume of timber for electricity conveyance purposes. Of even greater value, the forest plantations if left undisturbed for long periods could help in improving the hydrological cycle (rain cycle or water cycle), carbon cycle and help reduce soil erosion in afforested marginal lands which were once rendered useless through charcoal burning, shifting agriculture and poorly planned settlements.
Generally trees tend to add more value than harm to human societies and thus any effort towards preservation of both natural and plantation forests, including substituting electricity wooden poles with underground cables should be encouraged in the long term.