The accentuating water crisis in Shimla, with water being distributed only once in eight days in most localities, points to the failure of Shimla Municipal Corporation and the state government to comprehend the situation and effectively manage the crisis.
Reasons of water crisis:
- Shimla city has supply from five major water sources — Gumma, Giri, Ashwini Khad, Churat and Seog. The overall installed capacity is 65 million litres per da (MLD) while the demand is approximately 45 MLD. Despite the higher installed capacity, the city never gets more than 35 MLD as average throughout the year. Most of the water leaks out during pumping and distribution.
- Ashwini Khad, a major source, was contaminated in 2005 when a sewage treatment plant (STP) was constructed in Malyana, just 5 km upstream. Since then, there have been periodic breakouts of hepatitis. This source met the requirements of a quarter of the city's population and its near-closure cannot be compensated even by an increase from Giri. At present, not more than 2-3 MLD of water is being pumped into the city from Ashwini Khad. The MC has to risk the outbreak of hepatitis if it insists on lifting water from this source. If it does not, the crisis would further deepen. There has to be a proper mechanism to deal with this source.
- There are over 50 sources in and around the city which are run and operated by the Irrigation and Public Health Departments (IPH) of the state government. The IPH has virtually stopped lifting water from these sources on the pretext that they are contaminated. This has further increased the burden on the MC to ensure that water is supplied even to areas not under its jurisdiction.
- There has to be both immediate and long-term planning. For immediate, there must be proper monitoring and management. Proper distribution of water and checking of leakages must be done at a war footing. Government offices and colonies, both central and state, occupy almost 50 per cent of the land mass (minus forests) in Shimla city. It has to be made mandatory at least for the government offices to ensure that they become resilient and have 100 per cent rainwater harvesting in their offices and residential colonies.
- The Greater Shimla water supply and sewage circle (GSWSSC) must be strengthened for its autonomous functioning. The duality of water supply and distribution has ended. The strengthening of the GSWSSC will make it more accountable.
- There is need to find another major source of water supply which is perennial. The growth of the city is massive. From a population of 30,000, now the city has over 2,00,000 people with over 1 lakh entering and leaving the city every day. The city also has more than 40 lakh tourists visiting every year. Hence, the present set of water sources cannot suffice. The previous MC was instrumental in forming an MoU with the World Bank for lifting water from Kol Dam. The Kol Dam water supply scheme capacity is supposed to be more than 100 MLD. This is nearly three times more than what the city gets at present. By now, the execution of the work should have begun. However, it is still at the negotiation stage. The government must ensure that the Kol Dam scheme is executed. Just like the Ghandal water scheme which was earlier executed in the Shimla rural constituency.