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Shimla residents protest against water scarcity, scuffle with police

The shortage has forced people to buy water at exorbitant prices from private water suppliers.

india Updated: May 29, 2018 23:28 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times, Shimla
Shimla,Shimla water crisis,Water shortage
People queue up at Mall Road in Shimla on Sunday to collect water from a tanker as the city faces acute shortage of drinking water.(PTI Photo)

Residents of Shimla blocked traffic on two highways and clashed with police on Tuesday as the Himachal Pradesh capital continued to battle an acute drinking water shortage for the eighth day.

In light of the ongoing water crisis, the Himachal Pradesh high court directed the Shimla Municipal Corporation against any preferential treatment towards VIPs and debarred it from supplying drinking water to ministers, bureaucrats and judges through tankers.

The court also imposed restrictions on construction activity in Shimla for a week and asked officials to approach the army for diversion of water used for watering golf course at Annandale to households.

Situation worsens

The water supply to the popular hill station worsened on Tuesday with the town receiving 18 million litres of water per day (MLD) as against a demand of 45 MLD. On Monday, Shimla received 20 MLD, about 10% less than the water supply the previous week.

Read | An explainer on Shimla water crisis

Agitating against the water shortage, protesters blocked the busy Shimla-Chandigarh highway at two places and also stopped traffic at the highway leading to Mandi. “There was no water available for the eighth day and the corporation is not even responding,” said Sanjeev Kumar, one of the protesters. Traffic could only be resumed on the two highways after police intervention.

Activists of the Communist party of India (Marxist) also staged a protest near deputy commissioner’s office. A few locals carrying empty water buckets stormed the offices of the senior functionaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-controlled municipal corporation resulting in a scuffle with the police.

“It’s unfortunate that when the people of the town are facing hardships due to scarcity of water, the mayor is away on an official trip to China,” said former mayor and CPI(M) leader Sanjay Chauhan.

The Himachal high court, which had taken cognizance of the crisis on Monday, said on Tuesday that the town has been divided into three zones and each zone will get water after a gap of two days and submit a compliance report by Wednesday.

The water crisis comes during the peak tourist season when about 20,000 visitors arrive in Shimla every day. This has put additional pressure on the scarce water resources, prompting the state government to indefinitely postpone the Shimla Summer Festival, which was scheduled to start from June 1 because of water scarcity.

Chief minister Jai Ram Thakur instructed officials to ensure that each household gets water on alternate days till the crisis is solved and asked chief secretary Vinay Chaudhary to monitor the situation.

Even as Shimla and other major towns in Himachal face a severe water crisis, Dharmshala, also dubbed as the state’s second capital, managed to supply uninterrupted water supply to its residents. Effective resource management by the authorities has ensured that the town does not face a water shortage even in peak summers, said Deepak Garg, executive engineer (Designs), irrigation and public health department (IPH), Dharamshala.

First Published: May 29, 2018 16:59 IST