Shimla, March 28 (IANS) Water is generating heat in the Queen of Hills, as Shimla was fondly called by the British colonial rulers, even before the onset of summer.Also Read - Highlights India vs New Zealand 3rd T20I Match : IND Win By 73 Runs, NZ Whitewashed 3-0

Woes, instead of water, are flowing out of this city’s taps as scarcity is leaving the residents high and dry, literally. Also Read - Highlights | India vs New Zealand 2nd T20I Match: IND Beat NZ By 7 Wickets, Clinch T20I Series

Locals say Shimla, which is getting adequate funding under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), is facing its worst water crisis. They fear the problem will aggravate as the mercury and tourist footfalls spike. Also Read - Highlights IND vs NZ 1st T20I Match: Suryakumar Yadav's Fifty & Rishabh Pant's Gutsy Knock Guide India Home

Planned by the British for a maximum population of 16,000, Shimla now houses more than 10 times that at close to 170,000 and requires 42 million litres per day (MLD) of water.

In a written reply in the assembly earlier this month, Irrigation and Public Health Minister Vidya Stokes said Shimla is getting 34 MLD on an average.

“The supply from Ashwani Khad is closed and the Shimla Municipal Corporation is in the process of replacing 2,000-m-long pipes from the Giri drinking water scheme. The pumps for lifting water at the Gumma scheme are also being repaired,” she added.

The water shortage has tourism industry stakeholders worried as Shimla gets 20,000-30,000 tourists on an average every weekend during the peak summer season from May to June.

“We are suffering miserably. It has become a round-the-year phenomenon that we have to depend on private water suppliers to meet our daily requirements,” D.P. Bhatia, liaison officer with the Oberoi Group of hotels in Shimla, told IANS.

“It’s really sad that Shimla is aiming to become one of India’s ‘smart cities’ but the water supply is deteriorating year after year,” he added.

Private suppliers bring water from natural sources located on the outskirts of Shimla to sell to the hotels.

“We are procuring water from the private suppliers at least seven months in a year, even when there is a lean tourist season,” Bhatia added.

The civic authorities say water shortage has become more acute when supply from Ashwani Khad was stopped in January last year following a jaundice outbreak.

Ashwani Khad was the source of water for one-third of Shimla’s population before that at 9 to 10 MLD.

The jaundice outbreak claimed over 20 lives. The reason for the water-borne disease was mixing of sewage flowing from a nearby sewerage treatment plant to the natural water supply scheme.

At a high-level meeting here on Saturday, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh directed officials to speed up the repair of the Giri water supply scheme to enable providing around five MLD of additional water.

He said action would be initiated against those employees who failed to plug the leakages and overflow of the water tanks.

Principal Secretary Anuradha Thakur said since the Ashwani Khud shutdown, there has been a shortage of around nine MLD of water.

She said the entire rising main of the Giri scheme is being replaced and the work has been almost completed.

Locals rue that Shimla is now synonymous with water scarcity — both in summer and winter.

“In winter, we were getting water once after two-three days, that too in the morning just for two hours. These days we are getting water after four days,” Gian Chand, a resident of Khalini locality, told IANS.

Civic authorities blame leakages in the distribution network, a significant portion of which goes back to the British days, and diminishing water resources that have been over-exploited to meet the increasing demand for the tourism industry.

Local BJP legislator Suresh Bhardwaj blamed the state government for mismanaging the supply of water.

“In every Vidhan Sabha session I have been raising this issue. Despite that the government is doing nothing to ensure daily supply of water in Shimla,” Bhardwaj told IANS.

A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, which highlights inadequacies of the Shimla Municipal Corporation, says the quantity of water supplied is less than the prescribed limit of 135 litres per capita per day.

From 2009 to 2014, the corporation supplied 110 litres of water per capita per day.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

This is published unedited from the IANS feed.