Shimla battles worst water crisis in decades

Shimla battles worst water crisis in decades

People stand in a queue to collect water from a tanker, as the city faces acute shortage of drinking water, in Shimla on Tuesday. PTI

Faraway from the burgeoning water crisis in drought-stricken Cape Town, the picturesque hill station of Shimla in Himachal Pradesh, is in the midst of its worst water crisis in decades.

Water supply lines in Shimla ran dry for the eighth day on Tuesday. 

Drinking water supply in the erstwhile summer capital of the British Raj has plummeted to less than 50% of the daily requirement.

Long queues of residents waiting restlessly for hours on the streets with buckets in hand to fetch water from anywhere possible have angered residents.

Protests are increasing by the day.

The crisis is being attributed to Shimla's two main water supply sources, fed by mountain streams, fast drying out.

Poor rainfall and inadequate snowfall in the winter that went by has led to the depletion of water sources this summer.

The footfall of tourists, which peaks up to nearly 20,000 people every day in summers, has maximised this time around making matters worse.

Hotels are cancelling booking apprehending angry tourists. Hoteliers said scores of tourists have cancelled hotel bookings over the last few days. 

Available water tankers are charging double the price.

"Sale of packaged drinking water has hit the roof. People are buying disposable plates and glasses to save water that goes down the drain in washing utensils," Namrita, a teacher at Auckland House School, Shimla, told DH.

Shimla with a population of 2.2 lakh residents and an ever-increasing number of tourists has a daily requirement of 45 million litres per day (MLD).

The requirement has dropped down to about 20-22 MLD. Chief Secretary Vineet Chawdhry said a decline in the availability of water at the two main supply sources  —  Giri and Gumma —  is the main problem.

Court steps in 

Locals are crying foul over water supply, or whatever remains of it, being diverted to VIP residences.

The Himachal Pradesh High court on Monday took suo motu notice of the crisis.

It asked if any new construction should be allowed to come up within the municipal limits.

Shimla now does not have enough water to pump at the stations and the crisis is here to stay, at least for some more days.