As the world observed the Environment Day today, residents of Shimla continued to grapple with the worst-ever water crisis in the hill city’s history, a stark warning of what the consequences of degradation of natural resources can be.
Despite the best efforts of the Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) and other authorities, people are getting water only after a gap of three to four days. The severe water shortage raised its head during peak tourist season and has already hit the hospitality sector here.
Reckless felling of trees, unplanned and illegal constructions have reduced the ‘queen of hills’ to a concrete jungle and drying up of water sources has plunged Shimla into this deep crisis.
The town has faced water woes during the summer for past many years. But the crisis this year was unprecedented and experts attribute it to the degradation of environment.
Shimla has been declared a ‘smokeless’ city where smoking in public is banned while the use of polythene and plastic is prohibited, but drying up of water sources and the receding snow line and forest cover have taken their toll.
Snowfall during the winters has reduced drastically. This year there was a 72 per cent rain deficit and the town received scanty snowfall. As a result the perennial sources like springs have either dried up or in other cases usurped by land sharks.
According to officials, the sources of Shimla Water Supply Scheme have plumbed to the lowest level with daily pumping coming down from 40 million litres per day (MLD) to 18 MLD out of which more than 15 percent goes waste due to leaking pipelines.
The population of the town has reached about 1.80 lakh while a floating population of 80,000 to 1 lakh is added during the tourist season. And the water supply scheme virtually collapsed this summer.
Multi-storied structures have come up in and around Shimla creating water shortage and parking problems but with political considerations leading to a push for regularising the illegal structures, an additional 20,000 water connections could be added, further worsening the situation.
The government had amended the Town and Country planning Act but the High Court has struck down the amendment providing for regularising the illegal structure on as is, where is basis and the National Green tribunal has also banned all constructions in core areas in the town and restricted the height of the buildings.
However, the government instead of implementing the orders of High Court and NGT has approached the NGT to give some relaxation to the affected people.
The court and NGT have come to the rescue of Shimla but the government appears to be siding with the violators which is not a good sign,” said a retired architect who wished not to be named.