Making its intervention to find a solution to the water needs of the people, the Himachal Pradesh High Court has directed Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation to take immediate steps to provide funding for argumentation of 1421 drinking water supply schemes.
The proposal to seek Rs 798.19 crores was submitted to the ministry by the state Irrigation and Public Health (IPH) department on May 11 this year and the department has also made a presentation on the projects in the ministry. The schemes are aimed to cover the scarcity areas, revive defunct schemes and built-up new schemes for left-out areas.
Passing the orders, a division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Ajay Mohan Goel also directed the Assistant Solicitor General of India to file an affidavit relating to the schemes for which funding has been sought by the state government.
The high court has taken up the issue in its suo-motu action based on media reports relating to huge water scarcity which several parts of the state have been facing during the summers for several years. These areas mainly include the districts of Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Una, Kangra and Mandi.
The court also sought details of the schemes, which are presently pending with NABARD—which is a funding agency for rural infrastructure and farm sector projects. The high court bench said access to safe drinking water is a fundamental right and hence, it was the duty of the state to take steps to meet the water needs of the citizens.
According to the data provided by Engineer-in-Chief IPH Anil Kumar Bahri, around 50 per cent of the habitation in Himachal Pradesh are not fully covered for adequate potable water to the residents. The court termed it as a serious issue for the state which has many perennial rivers like Satluj, Bias, Ravi, Chenab, Pabar, Chander and Bhaga etc. “Even after more than 70 years of independence, only 50 per cent of 53,604 habitations so identified by the IPH stand provided with adequate potable water. It cannot be said that per se, there is paucity of water in the state.” said the bench
Shimla in grave water crisis
Meanwhile, Shimla is currently facing serious water crisis with localities going without water from six to seven days. There is no sufficient water available with the Shimla Municipal Corporation, which is currently supplying 21.17 million litres of water per day (MLD) as compared to the need of 41 MLD.
There have been reports about people drawing impure water from natural sources to meet their daily needs. A sewerage pipe leaked in Kanlog area caused contamination of the entire supply that made Mayor Kusum Sadret rush to the area and pacify the agitated residents. More than 22 major localities are severely affected by this incident. The rationing of the water supply has also not worked in the town. The corporation has banned sanctioning of new connections and has also cut down supplies for the constructions, currently happening in the town, said the Mayor.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur held a meeting with top government officials directing them to make arrangements for to meet the minimum water needs of Shimla.