Water Crisis Continues To Loom Large Over Shimla

By: Vijay Kumar Verma, Editor-ICN Group

Shimla though inching towards normalcy continues to reel under an unprecedented water shortage, which has adversely affected its tourist industry for this season.

The blame games apart none of the previous governments have ever tried to take the issue seriously. The burgeoning population of over two lac is made to fend with the age old water supply schemes being given a cosmetic touch now and then.

May and June are the months when tourists arrive in this hill town to escape the scorching summer of plain. And these two months are marked as boom tourist period for the hoteliers, the businessmen, the taxi operators, and petty shopkeepers. They depend on this tourist flow to make hay for the rainy days ahead.

This year however, the hoteliers claim only 50 percent average occupancy while the other tourist business too is down in a major way. Obviously, tourists have sought alternative hill towns like Manali, Mussorie and Naini Tal.

Shimla city runs on tourism and when tourists do not come here in the month of June then everyone is hit says a hotelier. The taxi drivers, the restaurant owners, the shop keepers on the mall, even the ghora wallahs. Everyone laments that their earnings have nosedived.

Many believe that the state government, failed to counter the negative publicity generated by the water crisis. In the past too Shimla used to face a water shortage during the summer months but this time around the situation went out of control with Municipal Corporation resorting to supplying water once in a week and more in certain areas.

In many localities like New Shimla and Kasumpti, the situation was so bad that the dwellers were getting water once in twelve days This prompted many residents to make a hue and cry not only on the roads but also through the social media which spread the news like a wild fire.

The obvious reason is that the city had been developed by the Britishers for a carrying capacity of 25,000 people. Today, we have over two lakh people living in the city with a floating population of 50 to 70 k during the vacations.

Another hotelier tells that majority of the 800 hotels in this city do not depend on the Municipal Corporation for their water supply. They buy water tankers throughout the year.

What further added fuel to the fire was that the mayor of Shimla, Kusum Sadret chose to go on a fortnight’s junket to China during this very period. Facing increasing criticism, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur began holding daily meetings in the state secretariat on the water crisis.

The long queues of people buckets sent message about an unhappy city, through the media. An accidental death of a women by a water tanker further added to the public outrage.

People are also scary of the quality of tanker water which is not often safe as earlier, there have been instances when tankers have distributed sewage water in the name of ‘safe’ water. The catchment areas around Shimla have dried out and the state government is now drawing water from distant sources

Water is now being given to residents every fifth day and that too for a period of one hour. Given the scarcity of this precious natural resource, Shimla residents have though reconciled for the time being  but the ensuing monsoon season may spell out more troubles as the rains not only bring silt to the water sources but also harmful waste residues giving rise to health issues.

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