Water crisis in Shimla: Behind acute shortage, depleting water levels and rising population

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New Delhi | Updated: May 29, 2018 12:16:07 PM

Water crisis in Shimla: The capital of Himachal Pradesh is in the midst of a major water crisis as the city is reported to have run out of water during the peak tourist season.

 

Water crisis, Shimla, Water crisis in Shimla, Shimla water crisis, depleting water levels, rising population, shortage of water, water shortage in ShimlaShimla, India’s most visited hill station, is facing a shortage of water for the past eight days. (Photo: PTI)

Water crisis in Shimla: The capital of Himachal Pradesh is in the midst of a major water crisis as the city is reported to have run out of water during the peak tourist season. Shimla, India’s most visited hill station, is facing a shortage of water for the past eight days. Amid the situation in the city, the Himachal Pradesh High Court on Monday took suo motu notice of the crisis and has asked whether any new construction should be allowed to come up within the municipal limits.

This question was posed by an HC division bench including Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Ajay Mohan Goel. “The problem of water scarcity within Shimla town, as highlighted, takes us to yet another issue and that being as to whether any new construction should be allowed to come up within the municipal limits of Shimla town at all or not,” the court observed, as per a PTI report.

The Himachal Pradesh High Court had to intervene in the matter after frustrated residents of the city were seen struggling to fill buckets from municipal corporation tankers. Some even tried to march towards the residence of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur. HP CM while talking about the crisis described it as “really, really bad.”

While talking about the reason behind the water crises in the city, the bench said that the town, except for one, did not have its own perennial source of water, which is required to be pumped from the river sources at a distant place. While directing the municipal commissioner and engineer to remain present in the court during a hearing that is scheduled to take place today, the bench said, “Whether the present holding capacity is sufficient enough to cater to the ever-growing urban population or not, is an issue which certainly needs to be addressed.”

Advocate General Ashok Sharma informed the court that the highest authority was already seized of the matter and appropriate steps were being taken for immediately redressing the problem. “We are fully in agreement with the submissions made by the Advocate General that long-term solution to the problem can be found with the construction of check dams and reservoirs where water can be stored for longer period of time and utilised at the time of water scarcity, more so, during summer months,” the bench said.

What’s causing the water shortage?

According to an Indian Express report, on an average 15,000-20,000 tourists visit Shimla every day during the peak tourist season. The resident population of the city is 2.2 lakh, while tourist arrivals over the weekend reaches 25,000-30,000. This increasing number is adding on the pressure over the water situation in the city.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Secretary Vineet Chawdhry said that the dramatic decline in the availability of water at the two main supply schemes that have long fed Shimla is the fundamental problem. The report further stated that the “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.”

Chawdhry said that the dry spell with less rainfall and snowfall appear to be factors behind the depletion of water in the city. “There isn’t enough water to pump at the stations. The dry spell with less rainfall and very little snowfall appear to be a factor. But, we will need to study the reasons.” The municipal corporation in a note to the state government attributed it to the adverse weather/climatic conditions which is said to drying up of water sources.

The report further states that old, leaky pipes are the reason behind the loss of a significant amount of water. It also says that the civic body is often erratic when it comes to the distribution of water, giving VIP localities preferential treatment. The illegal construction that takes place across the city is also the place where water is frequently pilfered for use, along with hotels that draw extra water. As a result, the common man is left to face the shortage of water almost every year.

The report also states that farmers growing vegetable crops upstream of the Gumma have been stopped from drawing water as these crops have to be cut atleast three khuls (traditional water channels) from the stream. However, officials have noted this as a temporary solution only. The Irrigation and Public Health Engineering (IPH) Department on Monday rushed to stop the illegal pumping of water from the Giri river. The IPH had earlier allowed more than 150 farmers to use pumps to draw water from the said river. But now almost double this number are now using the Giri river water. The IPH department has also withdrawn its NOCs.

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