Shimla, India, Faces Growing Water Crisis, Drought

The mountain tourist town is turning to water reuse and alternate supply as residents queue for drinking water

Shimla, India, struggles with growing water crisis

On May 20, water supplies in the mountain tourist town of Shimla, India, ran dry. For more than two weeks, the city’s 172,000 residents have been forced to queue to receive a daily allowance of drinking water stored in large tankers by the local government. As even bottled water becomes scarce, some residents have turned to the so-called “tanker mafia,” suppliers of water drawn from boreholes sold at a steep cost. The mounting water crisis is being compared to that of Cape Town, South Africa, where resident conservation efforts have staved off tap shut off.

According to The Guardian, June marks peak tourist season for the mountain town where visitors can reach up to 30,000 each day and the city’s water needs increase to approximately 45 million liters daily, a number not being met by the 18 million liters available as of May 29.

The growing water crisis has disrupted everyday life. Construction activity and car washes have been temporarily banned and schools have been closed until at least June 11. The First Post reports that at least 30 hotels have been disconnected from water connections due to their failure to comply with water restrictions, and more still are cancelling bookings and urging tourists to wait until the crisis subsides. 

According to NDTV, improvements are on the horizon for Shimla after the Shimla Municipal Corp. plugged multiple leaks and snapped illegal connections, bolstering the water supply by nearly 10 million liters daily.

Local authorities point to a slew of factors behind the long-brewing water crisis, including an aging water infrastructure built during the British colonial era and a 2016 water contamination of one of the town’s five key water sources–Ashwini Khad–which forced closure. Other factors include a three-year drought caused by low snowmelt and a dwindling groundwater table. 

The Shimla government is pushing rainwater harvesting and water reuse methods, but the town is in dire straights. Your Story reports that Shimla made rainwater harvesting mandatory for new structures as of 2000, but it is not always implemented. The administration also is considering supplementing their supply through water from the Kol Dam’s intake point or Chander Nahan Lake. Also on the table is decentralised wastewater treatment.

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