Friday, November 02, 2018

A Fire Destroyed a Shortwave Station in India

Quite recently, Gautam Kumar Sharma of Abhayapuri in the northeast Indian state of Assam emailed us with two interesting radio stories. 

One story was about a Royal Bengal Tiger that prowled through the estate of All India Radio in Tezpur Assam, and the other was the story of a fire at All India Radio Itanagar.  Two weeks back we presented the Tiger story in Assam here in Wavescan, and on this occasion, we present the story of the fire in the AIR transmitter facility at Itanagar in the nearby state of Arunachal Pradesh.

The small state of Arunachal Pradesh is the most northeasterly state in the Union of India and it is a relatively new state, having been designated as such in 1987. Originally Arunachal Pradesh was administered as part of the larger state of Assam.

The state name Arunachal Pradesh means the Land of the Morning Mountains and it is home to many tribal peoples who speak some 50 languages and dialects, though English is the only official language.  It is home to a plethora of some 500 different species of bird life, and a variety of butterflies, medicinal plants and wild animals such as elephants, deer, leopards and monkeys.

This distant state is the largest of the now 8 sister states in the North East with an area of 33,000 square miles and a population of 1.3 million.  Their capital city is Itanagar with a population of 60,000.  The city name, Itanagar, means Brick Village, having reference to a major local industry.

Over a period of time, five different medium wave stations have been installed throughout the territory that became the state of Arunachal Pradesh.  The first two stations were installed in the mid 1960s at Passighat and Tezu in the north of the state, and though listed with 1 kW each, they were on the air back then with only one tenth of that power value. 

These days, the Passighat station operates with high power 100 kW on 1072 kHz, and Tezu with medium power 10 kW on 1332 kHz.

The Tawang station was installed a decade later at a power level of just 500 watts, and the Ziro station with 1 kW was installed around the turn of the century.  These two towns are located towards the western end of the state.  These days Tawang operates with 20 kW on 1521 kHz and Ziro operates with still just 1 kW on 1702 kHz.

The AIR station in the capital city Itanagar was installed in the mid 1980's with 1 kW on 675 kHz. Then on February 5, 1996, a new superpower 100 kW medium wave transmitter was inaugurated though still on the same channel 675 kHz.

Their 50 kW shortwave station was installed in the early 1990s with a power of 50 kW.  The test broadcasts were noted internationally on four different shortwave channels. However, around ten years into the new millennium, and the station was noted off the air more than on, due to technical problems. 

On August 20, 2015, work commenced at the already established medium wave and shortwave transmitter facility at Khating Hills near Itanagar for the installation of a superpower 200 kW analog/digital medium wave transmitter. 

Next month, at 5:30 am on Friday morning September 25, smoke was observed coming from the building. Two fire engines attempted to quench the flames, with little success, and all of the transmitters, both medium wave and shortwave, were completely destroyed.  In fact, all major electronic equipment in seven rooms at the transmitter site was badly damaged. 

As an emergency measure, all programming from the city studios was broadcast on their only other channel, their FM outlet 103.1 MHz.  The cause of the disastrous fire was eventually acknowledged to be an electrical short circuit. 

These days, All India Radio Itanagar is heard on the air from their new analog/digital transmitter with 100 kW on 675 kHz, and also running  200 kW DRM on the adjacent channel 684 kHz as well as on several FM outlets.  Their shortwave service has never been revived.
(AWR-Wavescan/NWS 505)