Millennium Post

Shimla's water scarcity

Shimlas water scarcity
Tourist hotspot Shimla is facing an acute water shortage for the past one week. Most areas of the capital city have not received any water supply while in some areas the pressure is low resulting in the low supply. People are seen standing in long queues with empty vessels lined up on the street. In some badly-hit areas, water is being supplied through tankers under police protection. The city is receiving 21-22 million litres (MLD) of water daily while the demand is 32 MLD. The shortage of water has been attributed to depleting of source feed due to scanty rains and less snowfall this year. The demand for bottled water has increased by 50 to 60 per cent. And, the Centre has sought a report on the water scarcity from the Himachal Pradesh government.
The city's tourism industry has taken a serious hit due to the water shortage. Normally, with the onset of summer, 20,000-25,000 tourists visit the city every day while on the weekends, the number goes up to 30,000-35,000. Many tourists and local residents have posted messages on social media urging the tourists to refrain from visiting the city now and tourists are reportedly cancelling their visits to the hill-station. Hoteliers and others are worried that the news of the water crisis will prevent the inflow of tourists into the state. In view of the scarcity of water, International Shimla Summer Festival, a major tourist attraction scheduled from June 1 to 5, has been cancelled. Taking suo moto cognizance of the matter, Himachal Pradesh High Court on Wednesday directed the Shimla Municipal Corporation to not allow any water supply for building construction and washing car. It has also asked to disconnect water supply to hotels which do not pay their pending water charges within two days. On Tuesday, it ordered that no water tankers will be sent to individuals, even if they are ministers, bureaucrats, or judges. Only the Governor and the Chief Minister were exempted from the order. Even though protests have erupted in the city with Congress activists blocking some roads, Shimla authorities have deployed 27 tankers to distribute 2.25 lakh litres of water at 63 points in the city. Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur has reviewed the water situation in a high-level meeting even as Himachal Chief Secretary Vineet Chawdhry said that the report sought by Union Water Resources Secretary has been sent.
Tourists visiting the hill station are complaining of being overcharged by the hotels and they are being supplied water in buckets. "The hotel which we are staying in is providing a single bucket of water and charging Rs. 3,500 per night. I had to pay Rs. 42 for 1 litre bottled water," a tourist told ANI.
From being a world-class tourist destination to tourists being asked not to visit the city amid water scarcity, Shimla will surely disappoint a large number of visitors this year. The water crunch is severe and has taken the entire city in its grip. Hotels are supplying their clients water in buckets and overcharging the tourists for bottled water. Scanty rains and less snowfall have resulted in depleting the water sources that feed the water supply to this town of nearly 2 lakh people. As the summer sets in, many parts of the country witnesses severe water scarcity while it is a tough challenge for the civic bodies to ensure regular water supply in the cities. In order to keep an uninterrupted water supply to cities, a proper water management plan has to be drawn up. It is to be decided whether the supply would be made from a river system or a reservoir. If it is to be made by the reservoir, the government needs to create these reservoirs so that rainwater is collected and stored for future use. For a regular and reliable supply of water to the tourist town of Shimla, the government needs to set up necessary reservoirs. If the water is to be supplied from a river system, the departments concerned needs to ensure that the water supply in the rivers is enough to meet the demand. And, there should be coordination among the officials so that the residents don't have to face the water scarcity like they are facing in Shimla now.
Far from being a pristine hill station, Shimla is today a bustling and over-commercialised tourist hotspot. The growing urbanisation and pressure of a rising number of tourists are taking a toll on the sensitive ecology of the city. The current water crisis is just a reflection of the over-exploitation of the city.

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