India’s Cape Town? Why Shimla is facing acute water crisis

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New Delhi | May 29, 2018 9:03 PM

Shimla is facing a major water crisis. The capital of Himachal Pradesh has reportedly run out of water during its peak tourism season.

Shimla, India’s most visited hill station, is facing a shortage of water for the past eight days. (Photo: PTI)

Shimla is facing a major water crisis. The capital of Himachal Pradesh has reportedly run out of water during its peak tourism season. One of the most visited hill stations in India, Shimla is facing water shortage for the past eight days. Locals have come out on streets to protest. Amid the grave situation in the city, Himachal Pradesh High Court on Monday took sou motu notice of the crisis and has asked whether any new construction should be allowed to come up within the municipal limits.

What is the reason behind the water crisis?

Former Deputy Mayor of Shimla, Tikendra Panwar in an interview with The Tribune said there are various reasons for the water crisis in Shimla.

1- Shima has a water supply from five major water sources- Gumma, Giri, Ashwini Khan, Churta and Seog. The overall installed capacity is 65 million litres per da (MLD) and the demand is of around 45 MLD. Despite the higher capacity, the city only gets up to 35 MLD as average throughout the year. Most of the water leaks out during pumping and distribution.

2- Out of the five water sources, Ashwini Khad is a major source. As the water was contaminated in 2005 after a sewage treatment plant was constructed in Malyana, there have been breakouts of hepatitis periodically. Currently, not more than 203 MLD is pumped from Ashwini Khad. The Municipal Corporation will risk hepatitis outbreak if it insists on lifting water from Ashwini Khan. “If it does not, the crisis would further deepen. There has to be a proper mechanism to deal with this source,” he added.

3- Another reason as Panwar claims is there are over 50 sources in and around Shimla that are run by the Irrigation and Public Health Departments (IPH). The IPH has stopped lifting water from the sources as they believe that these sources are contaminated, Panwar told The Tribune.

Meanwhile, Himachal Pradesh Chief Secretary Vineet Chawdhry told Indian Express that the dramatic decline in the availability of water at the two main supply schemes that have long fed Shimla is the fundamental problem. “Giri scheme, which has an installed capacity of 20 million litres per day (MLD), has been providing only 9.75 MLD, and the scheme at Gumma, the city’s oldest, has been giving the corporation about 10.6 MLD against its installed capacity of 21 MLD,” he said.

Chawdhry added that the dry spell with less rainfall and snowfall appear to be the factors behind the situation in the city. However, the municipal corporation in a note to the state government attributed it to the adverse weather/climatic conditions which are said to drying up of water sources.

Earlier, a drought in the Western Cape province of South Africa began in 2015 and is resulting in a severe water shortage, which is heavily affecting the city of Cape Town. The dam levels was predicted to decline critically low levels, and the city announced plans for ‘Day Zero’ when if a particular lower limit of water storage was reached, the municipal water supply would largely be shut off, potentially making Cape Town the first major city to run out of water.

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