Water wars have reached the Queen of Hills, Shimla, as taps are running dry for the 8th day in most parts of the city. People are forced to buy water at exorbitant prices and smaller hotels are cancelling bookings following the fall in during water supply to less than 50% of requirements. On Sunday night, about 100 people staged midnight protest outside the waterworks office on the main Mall Road and the police stopped them from approaching the residence of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who on Monday constituted a committee headed by chief secretary Vineet Chowdhary to monitor daily water supply.

The Himachal high court on Monday took suo moto cognizance of the crisis after the local bar association stopped work citing water problem.

Brij Mohan Chauhan, president of Himachal Bar Association, said: “We haven’t seen such a situation in the last 20 years. The government has failed to provide even drinking water to people.” Jamwal termed the situation unusual but seemed to suggest that the crisis has been in the making for some time. He said over the past three summers, water availability had plunged to 29 or 30 million litres per day (MLD). “This year we are able to supply only about 20 MLD. That makes it tough to match demand,” he said. The water demand in Shimla during peak tourist season is around 45 MLD.

The water crunch has forced locals to spend many hours in queues to get a bucket of water from private water suppliers at double the normal rates. Several areas haven’t received water for the last week and places like Kasumpti haven’t had water supply for 11 days. Kusumpati is inaccessible as even tankers cannot supply water to these areas.

The water shortage has hit hotels hard. “Many bookings have been cancelled in the last two to three days. When the government cannot provide water then it should stop promoting Shimla as tourist destination,” says Suresh Dogra, a travel agent on the Mall Road. A majority of hoteliers in Shimla have engaged private tankers to make up for the shortage but the supply is not enough to meet demand. “I cancelled my booking in Shimla after a local hotelier told me that he could not assure adequate water,” said Noida resident Raman Singh.

Another Himalayan city Dharmashala is also facing water shortages both for drinking and everyday usage.

According to a report in TOI, India could be importing water as availability per person would dwindle down to 22% of the present scenario.

India is staring at severe water crisis. Between 1951 and 2011, water availability per person dropped 70%. By 2050, it is expected to reduce to just 22% of the present availability.

Depleting groundwater is a major cause of water shortage. India is the world’s largest user of groundwater, accounting for 25 percent of the world’s extracted groundwater. Over-exploitation has resulted in the decline in groundwater levels. In some parts of the country, the decline is more than one meter per year.

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