A day after the Himachal Pradesh High Court pulled up the Shimla Municipal Corporation for failing to act against defaulter hotels, the water supply of 40 hotels in the hill town was disconnected on Friday. These hotels had not cleared their water dues but continued to draw water despite Shimla grappling with water woes. The court also made it clear that no preferential treatment regarding water supply would be given to VIPs, including the judges, ministers, bureaucrats, and MLAs
Speaking to ANI, Shimla Deputy Commissioner Amit Kashyap said, “I received a couple of complaints regarding the illegal connections of water and they were correct. So, I have ordered the seizure of the same and have told the concerned people to take appropriate action against the culprits.”
He also added that he will take stern action against this practice and was asked by the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh and the Chief Secretary itself to take stock of the situation.
The Himachal Pradesh High Court also decided to intervene in the town’s water crisis. The court ordered a halt to the construction activity and banned car washing in certain areas to save water as facebook messages asked tourists to “stay away” from Shimla.
The population of Shimla is about 2.2 lakh but it swells by 15,000-20,000 tourists per day during the peak tourist season in summer. On weekends, this number increases to 25,000-30,000 tourist. Hence, the water requirement also increases to 45 million litres a day (MLD) during this season.
Meanwhile, the tourism industry in Shimla has also been massively hit as tourists are cancelling their visits to the hill-station. Local residents have also expressed their anger on social media in the last few days, with some asking tourists to stay away from Shimla.
The messages on social media have also cautioned the hoteliers who are so fed up with complaints from the customers that they have offered a full refund of the advance payment if they choose to cancel.
Also, the tourists staying in several hotels in the city are complaining of being overcharged for bottled water and are being given 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,” said Hemant Badane to ANI. Owing to this acute water scarcity, Badane and his family are planning to cut short their trip.
WATCH: Shimla resident threatens to immolate self over water shortage. pic.twitter.com/yuqgNmUQIA
Adding to the water woes, the Ashwani Khad water supply scheme was also closed after an outbreak of jaundice due to contaminated water in 2015.
The ambitious Koldam water supply scheme, envisaging the lifting of water from Sutlej river, is still in the works after six years. Currently, each zone of the town gets piped water only after a gap of several days.
The Himachal Pradesh High Court on May 30 directed the Shimla Municipal Corporation to disconnect the water supply to hotels who have defaulted in clearing the dues by May 31 as Shimla residents queue up to collect drinking water in cans and buckets from tankers.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur also reviewed the situation water supply situation on May 31. The residents are also frustrated due to the absence of Mayor Kusum Sadret who left Shimla for China amid water crisis. Protests and dharnas are being held throughout the town and the social media campaign to avoid Shimla has gone viral on the internet.