Promoted internationally as an ‘all weather tourist destination’, the beautiful Queen of hills, Shimla has unfortunately turned out to be ‘all weather city’ even when it comes to water crisis. The hue and cry over ‘water shortage’ is a common phenomenon in the state capital, which prevails for different reasons season after season every year. In summers, the peak tourist season, the water sources dry up. In Monsoons, the silt chokes the water supply schemes and in winters, when the temperature dips, the phenomenon of frozen water pipes turns out to be a big trouble.
The reasons do exist in other towns also, but the people of Shimla feel the pinch more for the natural water sources in and around the city are very less and if at all they exist, they are dirty. Even if forgets the worst ever jaundice outbreak in Shimla earlier this year, which claimed more than 20 lives due to mixing of sewage from the Sewerage Treatment Plant into the water supply scheme at Ashwani khad source.
The water quality and the quantity in the state capital is a constant pain. While Shimla has seemingly outgrown its capacity and has fallen short of the resources to provide quality life to the locals in general for lack of vision. The successive governments in the state have failed to draw up a long term plan for adequate water supply in Shimla. The Irrigation and Public Health (IPH) Department supplies water to the Shimla MC for distribution. It is only belatedly, that the government, learning a lesson from the jaundice outbreak, has constituted one body to look after the water issues, particularly quality, in Shimla.
Otherwise, it was really very easy for the IPH and the Shimla Municipal Corporation to pass the buck on each other, with no collective responsibility, whatsoever. The water is currently being drawn from Gumma, Giri, Ashwani khad and some other smaller water schemes, with no vigilance on their catchment areas and no comprehensive plan in place to ensure that water supply schemes run smooth and clean.
The water testing facilities are not updated in Shimla, and for the testing of Hepaptis-E virus, the samples have to be taken to Virology lab, Pune. “Everyone is free to dump debris straight into the water sources, wherever there is road construction or other activity. The government needs to stop it,” said Mayor, Shimla Municipal Corporation, Sanjay Chauhan. He said the pressure on the core area of Shimla is so much that makes the availability and quality of water go haywire. “It is high time the suburbs of Shimla were developed so that there is no more stress on Shimla,” he said.
Irrigation and Public Health minister, Vidya Stokes blatantly mentioned, “The increasing population and the haphazard construction anywhere with proper systems in place has compounded the problem. The shortage of water apart, the lack of sewerage connections in Shimla is irritating and is making the things worse.” She said the government has now formed one authority to look into the water quality in an integrated way. “It would certainly ease the things in times to come.” The govt is also working on augmenting water supply schemes of Shimla with some other smaller sources of water.
In this regard, Stokes, in fact, had taken up the issue of a bigger water supply scheme from Pabbar River with a long term vision of providing clean and adequate water to Shimla city. It would have involved initial high cost, but would have found a long term solution to the problem of water scarcity in Shimla with low recurring costs. The water would have with gravity, feeding some areas on way also. However, the same was scuttled by bureaucratic adamancy and a proposal for lifting water from Satluj River from Kol dam area was pushed, instead. This seems to involve very high costs in all times to come in lifting, along with the issue of clean drinking water as Satluj has very high silt in it all over the year.
See the other side of the city, which is internationally famous. The locals apart, the hospitality industry in Shimla, is always crying for water availability. Majority hotels have to arrange tankers from the water sources away from the city and they often get the water lifted without any treatment on the spot. Rather, the hoteliers in Shimla are opposing even the Green Tax proposed by the Shimla Municipal Corporations for vehicles coming from outside for reasons valid.