Shimla, Himachal’s capital, is set to face acute water shortage this summer. Government officials estimate that the town may fall short by nearly 14 million litres per day (MLD) of water. Around 80 to 85 per cent of the town’s local population has already been affected.
The hill town is recovering from a jaundice outbreak that is said to have caused due to supply of contaminated drinking water. The Shimla Municipal Corporation had shut the Ashwani Khad supply — a major water reservoir — following the jaundice outbreak.
“Water requirement in the town is between 44 to 45 MLDs. What we are getting from all our resources, more than two dozen small and big reserves, is barely 30 MLDs or even less,” said Tikender Panwar, deputy Mayor, Shimla.
“This is a huge shortfall. Areas like Tutu, Mehli and Kelti, New Shimla, Vikas Nagar, Chotta Shimla, Chakkar, Jutogh are worst hit.”
The irrigation and public health (IPH) department is the agency that is mandated to ensure water supply to the town. The municipal corporation, which handles distribution, blames the government for the current crisis.
“Water availability can be increased from alternate sources but the IPH has not done this yet despite Chief Minister’s orders,” said Panwar.
Further, the IPH also shut Chair and Cherot water reserves citing poor quality of water from there. This has put a lot of pressure on the Gumma and Giri water supply schemes, besides a few small sources and a borewell. The newly proposed Koti Brandi and Been scheme is yet to be initiated.
Anuradha Thakur, Secretary IPH, who was instrumental in putting things in order after the jaundice outbreak, admits that some areas were severely affected by the water shortfall. “Based on a meeting held by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh last week, Deputy Commission Shimla Rohan Thakur will take a call to arrange eight tankers for Mehli and four for Kelti. For Tutu, the MC has been told to arrange additional 2 lakh litres of water. The situation is being monitored daily,” she said.
The tourists industry has also started feeling the pinch. “We are buying water from private tankers. A single trip of 3000 litres costs Rs 5,000. As we have two units, we need 44,000 litres of water every day and the demand will go up during the peak season. Municipal Corporation can’t provide sufficient supply”, said a senior executive of a leading Shimla hotel.
The state government is yet to take a decision on major recommendations of a high-level committee, setup by the state high court, headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Vineet Chawdhry. It proposed to set-up a single authority under the Municipal Corporation to handle water supply and sewage functions in the town, instead of the dual-control mechanism between the IPH and MC as is being followed now.
“We are soon convening a special House of the corporation to discuss the issue and also report of the high level committee to fix the problem of water supply. We will ask the government to provide additional funds to regulate proposed authority on water and sewage functions,” the deputy Mayor added.
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