Four years since its worst-ever water crisis in 2018, residents of Shimla are yet again facing hardship as the Himachal Pradesh capital is grappling with a severe shortage for over a fortnight now.
Less rainfall, huge inflow of tourists and leaking pipes in the water distribution network are being blamed.
Even as the Shimla Municipal Corporation (MC) and the Shimla Jal Prabandhan Nigam Limited (SJPNL) claimed that water was being supplied on alternate days, residents of several localities of the city, including Tutu and Kaithu, alleged they were getting water supply once in three-four days.
The shortage of the vital resource has triggered a political blame game, with the Congress and the CPM attributing the current situation to mismanagement by the authorities.
Outgoing SJPNL Managing Director and CEO Dr Dharmendra Gill told PTI recently that over one-fourth of the water supplied was leaking during distribution due to old pipes.
Congress leader and former Shimla mayor Adarsh Sood claimed several areas in the state capital were getting water every three-four days as the MC and the SJPNL failed to plug the leaks in the distribution system.
Commenting on the issue, Gill said, “There is no leakage in the main lines from the pumping station to Dhalli, but there is a minimum of 25 per cent leakage in the internal network due to the old system.” A detailed project report (DPR) for laying hybrid pipes has already been approved by the Centre, and the work of laying these pipes will start soon to plug the leaks, he added.
MC authorities too blamed less rainfall, tourist inflow and leakage in distribution lines for the shortage.
Gill further said that on Thursday, the SJPNL pumped 40 MLD water against the required 45 MLD for daily supply. Had the 25 per cent leakage been plugged, around 10 MLD water would not have gone to waste, he added.
CPM leader and former mayor Sanjay Chauhan, however, told PTI that 35 MLD water was adequate for Shimla’s current population of 3.5 lakh people as per the ideal distribution of 100 litres per person per day.
Blaming mismanagement by the SJPNL for the water scarcity, he said, “When I was mayor during 2012-17, proper supply was ensured despite pumping 17 to 28 MLD.” If the CPM returns to power in the MC polls, SJPNL, a private company set up after the 2018 crisis for distribution of water, will be annulled, and the distribution work restored to the MC, Chauhan added.
Shimla Mayor Satya Kaundal said the SJPNL was constituted to get a loan from the World Bank for pumping water from the Sutlej to ensure 24-hour supply to residents of the city.
He added that Chauhan should not forget that during his tenure as the mayor, Shimla residents had been forced to drink contaminated water in 2016 and some people even died of jaundice because of it.
In 2018, Shimla ran out of water for several days. Water availability had dropped to 18 MLD against an average of 37-38 MLD back then. The crisis worsened to the extent that several hoteliers began advising tourists not to visit Shimla till the problem was resolved.