Come summer and the Queen of Hills starts to reel under acute water crisis. This year too, the condition is no different for the residents of Shimla, as water shortage has once again hit the capital town.
The water sources catering to 1.5-lakh population of the town have started receding rapidly. The daily water supply has declined drastically over the past month. The water supply that was recorded at 52 lakh gallons per day a week ago, has now fallen to 48 lakh gallons whereas the daily requirement of the town is 75 lakh gallons on the average. But this demand increases to 80 to 85 lakh gallons during summers primarily due to tourist season. The large influx of tourists in this hill capital has further aggravated the water crisis in the town.
This summer is a typical case. Shimla gets its water supplies from four major sources - the Ashwani Khad, Gumma Catchment Area, Churat Nullah and Chairh Pumping Station. While its total water requirements are to the tune of 75 lakh gallons per day, the Shimla Municipal Corporation is only being able to supply less than 48 lakh gallons per day. The underground water drained from hand pumps is also hard to get as most of them have gone dry.
The water level at Ashwani Khudd has also receded drastically as against the total capacity of 17 lakh gallons per day; only 9 lakh gallons were being pumped out from the Ashwani Khudd on daily basis. Of the total four pumps installed here only two are functional due to receding water level.
Similarly the water supply has fallen to 33 lakh gallons in the Gumma Catchment Area against the daily supply of 83 lakh gallons per day. This water source mainly caters to almost 50 percent of the population of the town and its peripheries.
Trying to tackle this problem, the Shimla municipality has now started rationing of water in the town. The areas facing water shortage are getting water supply on alternate days. However some areas in the town are badly affected, as they have not been supplied water for over a week. The areas of Vikas Nagar, Ramnagar, Nabha, Totu and Khalini are worst hit.
However the general feeling among the people in the town is that the water crisis need not be so acute if the distribution system of the municipal corporation improves. Ageing infrastructure - distribution lines, faulty meters and burst pipelines - resulting in wastage of alarming dimensions - has largely gone unnoticed. Because of old distribution lines, leakage is very high. Nearly, 40 per cent of corporation's water supplied in the town is lost due to leakage.
The Irrigation and Public Health Minister Kaul Singh Thakur however said that Shimla would not face the water problem any more as two more tube wells at Ashwani Khudd would be made functional by the end of this month. He said that the state was hit by drought for past three years in a row and this winter too, it did not rain much. He said that there is no need to panic as the departments thrust is on proper management of water. We have already pressed tankers into service wherever needed, he said adding that the department was also examining three water supply schemes-Chanshal and Pabbar in Rohru ad from the Giri River-to augment the supply to Shimla town.
The exploding population is also one of the main factors for the water scarcity in the town. The town, which was developed by the British, could house only 25 thousand people, now has a population of more than 1.5 lakh, which has made it difficult for the municipal authorities to meet the water requirements of the people. The corporation is also catering to the needs of residents of areas that are not in the purview of the corporation. The adjoining areas include nagar panchayats of Dhalli, Totu and New Shimla.
The corporation authorities have also failed to preserve the natural water sources in the town as most of them have dried up and the remaining have been encroached upon by some big hoteliers in the town. Three such sources have been identified out of which one is near the lift other two in Lakkar bazar areas of the town.
Shimla municipal corporation mayor, Sohan Lal however said that the corporation is trying its best to provide water to the residents of town. "We have deployed 6 tankers for the purpose and additional tankers have been provided by the Irrigation and Public Health Department", he said that the areas where the water shortage is acute, the corporation is supplying water through tankers.
"The water in Ashwani Khudd and Gumma have receded drastically during the last few days and it is difficult to provide water in the town on daily basis. This has forced us to supply water on alternate days," he added. We have also appealed to the people to preserve water and use it prudently.