Who is Responsible for Shimla’s Water Crisis?

Himachal Pradesh is reeling under a debt crisis with the State’s debt standing at a whopping 48000 crores & the State Capital is paralysed with a water crisis with the water sources drying up due to the abysmal record of successive governments in lifting water from perennial sources.

The top heavy bureaucratic set up of a tiny State like Himachal – where you have multiple additional Chief Secretaries alongside a Chief Secretary to satiate different egos – along with the political dispensations have found little time to address this core issue, since they have been supplied with water round the clock even as the town reeled under water shortages.

In the seventies & early eighties Shimla’s roads & drains were washed with water everyday, and now thanks to the apathy & lackadaisical approach of the politicians & bureaucrats, Shimlaites are running helter skelter for a few litres of water.

The common man in Shimla is having a hard time filling a bucket of water while the VIP areas of ministers & bureaucrats are having ample water as always.

The woeful situation of water has been brought about due to the lack of planning and foresight on the part of the town planners & bureaucrats & a lack of political will on the part of politicians who have been at the helm of this tiny hill State for the better part of four decades and a half.

The ex-Chief Minister of the State who ruled the State for more than 3 decades failed to solve the town’s water crisis when it was in its nascent stage and could have been dealt with a smaller budget by lifting water from the Sutlej river – this could have solved the water problem once & for all since the river is a perennial source of water and involves one time infrastructure cost.

But the politicians & the bureaucrats failed in their duty towards the residents of the town procrastinating such a serious issue, and continually relying on khaddasnullahs (ponds & small streams) for supplying water to the town’s burgeoning population.

The bubble was waiting to burst and it took a small trigger – lack of snowfall & rains in the catchment areas in winters – to expose the government’s hollow promises & assurances on the water crisis in the State Capital.

To think of it, in the last 5 years ending with the tenure of the last government in 2017, the State’s debt rose from 22000 crore till December 2013 to an astronomical 48000 crores in December 2017 when the previous Congress government relinquished office – almost a 250% increase, which is unprecedented in the State’s history.

But ironically, none of this money was used by the previous government to augment the town’s water supply or provide basic infrastructure so that additional & more reliable water sources could be tapped.
In fact, the previous government had to shut one of the main water source – Ashwani khad – as it was supplying contaminated water which led to jaundice and loss of lives in 2016. Even that incident did not stir up the then government & its officers to come out with an alternative plan to augment the town’s water supply.

Shimla’s water requirement is around 48 MLD and only 18 to 22 MLD is currently being pumped from various sources, which explains why the entire population barring a select few are having to run with buckets in hand to fulfil their basic needs.

The present government, which has been only 6 months in office, is facing the wrath and ire of the public for the inaction & extravagance of its predecessor, but it should also share partial blame as nothing was done to replenish or create alternative sources of water when the previous BJP governments were in power in 1998 & 2007.

However, the present government can make amends and create a perennial source of water supply for Shimla & its surrounding areas to cater to the large populace. The only way to do it is to tap the vast reservoir of water available in Sutlej which can fulfil the ever increasing demand of Shimla & its periphery.

Let’s hope that the young & dynamic CM of Himachal Jai Ram Thakur is able to tide over this water crisis & bring a lasting solution to this perennial problem by tapping a perennial source.


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About the Author

Aman Gupta
Political Editor, Samast Bharat magazine