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Worsening water crisis of Shimla town now reminds Govt about water-conservation

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Water supply in shimla city

It is today that the State Government has announced that it posed Rs. 4751 crore project for funding to the Government of India for Rain Water Harvesting in the State.

Shimla: Daily water supply to the people was one of the main promises that the Bhartiya Janata Party had made in its manifesto for the elections to the Municipal Corporation of Shimla in 2017.  When the ruling party was in opposition, its leaders used to protest against the previous SMC holding empty-buckets in their hands.

Now, under its own regime, the supply of water from Giri and Gumma schemes to the town has fallen upto 12 MLD against required 45 MLD. The Chief Minister might have directed the SMC to roll-down all the water-tankers to supply water to the people, but the SMC doesn’t have sufficient tankers either. There are only seven or eight tankers for a population of about 2 lakh people.  

The Mayor of Shimla town Kusum Sadret had, on May 12, sighted the cause of the water-scarcity to be the interruption in power supply to the pumping stations, excess silt, and rain deficiency. She had assured that the situation would improve in a week or so as SMC was working on alternative plans. However, the situation has now become alarming.

Water-scarcity in Shimla had begun a decade ago, however, the situations never attained such grieve form that the capital town is facing in 2018. Hotels are not serving free water anymore. The tourists have to buy mineral water. Public toilets and that of offices, schools, hospitals etc. are bearing unbearable stench, as there is no water for cleaning.

Similarly, the water filters installed at public places, offices, schools, hospitals etc. are empty for days now.  Washing clothes and taking bath have become privileges.

The public is getting water after four to five days while in some areas like Bhattakufar, the people are spending weeks without the water supply.

The tourism industry is on its knees. The Tourism Industry Stakeholders Association alleged that the SMC has proved to be a complete failure in ensuring water-supply to the city. The hotels are forced to call water-tanks, which is an additional expenditure.

It would not take much time for the industry to collapse if the Municipal Corporation, as well as the State Government, continued to try washing their hands off by blaming it on the insufficient rain and snowfall.

The water sources are drying up and this crisis could aggravate if it did not rain in coming days, the SMC has admitted itself.

There is no surprise that there are hardly any complaints from the VIP areas. The people, as well as marginal players in the hotel industry, are alleging that the VIP areas are being given priority when it comes to water supply during such a crisis. 

There are reports that tanks in some VIP areas were seen overflowing while rest of the Shimla is getting only a couple of buckets after a wait of several days.

Earlier, there used to be water-shortage, but now it has become a crisis. It is the result of disrespecting ample availability of natural water that the people, as well as the government, have no idea about water-conservation practices. Establishment of small waste-water treatment and rain-harvesting plants at commercial and official spaces would have helped a lot in such a time. 

When caught off-guard, the SMC had agreed to supply contaminated water from the same Ashwani Khad that has caused deadly jaundice outbreak in 2015.

The Malyana sewage treatment plant is still not working properly and the samples have still not passed the quality tests. The samples still test positive, says the former Mayor of Shimla Sanjay Chauhan.

It is quite shocking that even after knowing that untreated waste from Malyana is getting mixed into Ashwani Khad, the Municipal Corporation is going to supply water from that source. If this decision is not rolled back, then CPI(M) will launch an agitation for which the state government and municipal corporation would be responsible,

his recent statement to media said.

The civic body did not pay attention to the millions of litres of water wasted due to leakages in the main-water supply lines as well as distribution lines in the town. Instead of showing strictness towards leakages in tanks installed at residential, officials, and commercial buildings, SMC’s own water-tanks could be seen over-flowing or leaking.

It is similar to the approach that the SMC is adopting in the disposal of garbage. Instead of penalizing people for burning garbage, the SMC’s own sanitation workers regularly set ablaze daily garbage.     

It is now that the Chief Minister has to urge people to save water and be judicious while using water – a message that should have been initiated long ago with intensive awareness campaigns to actually create an impact on the people.

It is today that the State Government has announced that it posed Rs. 4751 crore project for funding to the Government of India for Rain Water Harvesting in the State.

Chief Minister said that being a hilly State, the rainwater flows downstream unused. He said that the State Government was contemplating to check this wastage of water by building rainwater harvesting structures for effective water conservation. 

The quality of governance of any government is reflected in the vision of its leader and the team of ministers and bureaucrats. In the case of Himachal,  the leaders could not realize the outcomes of the inefficiency of water infrastructure and inequitable distribution.

In case of water-conservation, there is no sign of efforts to make preparations to deal with increasing demand for drinking water at a time when the weather is following a rain-deficient pattern and natural water resources are depleting. Our leaders are not able to foresee the impact of rising population and imbalanced exploitation of natural resources.

Now, the Government is proposing to stop farmers from using the water of Gumma and Giri schemes for irrigation so that the town could be supplied water. Meanwhile, the Government should also mind the unbridled over-construction. A large amount of water is being supplied to construction sites. In some cases, the builders have bored into the nearby land to fetch groundwater to meet the requirement of water for the construction.

The government has allowed private parties to bore, extract, and sell groundwater to hoteliers or anyone who can afford to buy. The groundwater sources would be exhausted in no time if the government did not check its policy regarding construction around Shimla. 

To complement this ignorance, the deforestation was almost unchecked. The mysterious killing of a 22-years-old forest gourd Hoshiyar Singh in 2017 in Karsog division had thrown apt light on the nexus between the forest department officials and forest mafia cashing on illegal felling of trees.

Each of us should now pay attention to the fact that the hills are forced to carry more than their capacity. To make up for the damage, the government need to work on a war footing to take corrective measures including awareness campaigns targeted at encouraging people to opt water-conservative friendly practices.

The corrective measures also include conservation of the depleting sources of fresh water, which were ignored by modern Shimla.

To prepare for the future, along with learning water-conservation, we will have to take up the task of planting suitable species of trees like oak, maple, fir and spruce, horse chestnut in addition to deodar. Taller plants should be planted instead of planting samplings due to lesser mortality rate, say scientists.

 

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 7 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture world around him in his DSLR lens.

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HP Govt’s failure in implementing FRA Act turning habitants into encroachers

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Kinnaur protest against eviction from forest land

The right to claim titles in “Forest” areas occupied prior to December 13, 2005, is clearly provided in the FRA for the individuals regarded as “encroachers” under the previous legal framework.

Shimla: About 1500 people participated in a rally and public meeting held on June 7, 2018, at Reckong Peo, Kinnaur, to raise their voice against on-going eviction drive that is terming a large number of occupants of forestland as illegal encroachers in complete violation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

The people protested against HP Government’s poor implementation of the FRA, in their district as well as in the entire state.

The rally and public meeting were organized jointly by the Him Lok Jagriti Manch, Zilla Van Adhikar Mancha, a Kinnaur-based platform, Himachal Van Adhikar Manch, Himdhara Collective, and Himalaya Niti Abhiyan.

Activist Manshi Asher with villagers

A memorandum was submitted to the Deputy Commissioner with a demand to immediately start processing the claims under FRA from Kinnaur district.

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The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, or Recognition of Forest Rights Act – commonly known as the Forest Rights Act (FRA)- was passed by Parliament in 2006 to address historical injustices and exclusion meted out to a large community of forest dwellers in India. Rights over forestlands were taken away since notification of forests under colonial Indian Forest Act (1927).

While in Himachal, there was a Forest Settlement in the 1970s that settled people’s access to forestlands, for the community, these remained privileges that could be taken away any time, the activists of organizing groups said.

Since then, a process of alienation of forest-dwelling communities has intensified in the name of development, wildlife conservation, forest management, and development, shrinking survival spaces of the forest-dependent people each time, they said.
It is only logical to assume that this piece of legislation is extremely relevant for Himachal Pradesh, where 67 percent of the total land area is under the jurisdiction of the Forest Department, the activists said.

In the initial phase, the State government had implemented the Act only in the Schedule – V (Tribal regions) areas of the State. As a result of this, the process of implementation in the State faced a long delay.

In 2013, after a High Court order and repeated instructions from the Centre, the government decided to implement the Act in non-tribal areas also. Despite the formation of more than 17503 Forest Right Committees (FRCs), which would file the claims, the process is not taking off in most areas.

Local administration and government officials have a partial understanding of the act and several misgivings. As a result of it, the process is just not moving forward.
The activists informed that it is extremely unfortunate that despite the formation of FRCs in 99.82% of revenue villages, only 53 individuals and 7 community titles have been issued under the Act in Himachal in past five years.

At the same time, the rest of the country, around 17.31 lakhs individual titles and 62.92 thousands of community titles have been issued over more than 137.50 lakhs acres of forestland.
Forest Rights act in kinnaur

Further, on April 6, 2015, the Himachal Pradesh High Court ordered the removal of encroachments on “forest land” in the state within six months. It has triggered an eviction drive by the Forest Department.

This includes serving notices for removal of encroachments, disconnecting electricity and water supply provided to all “illegal” structures raised over encroached land and legal action in case of non-compliance.

In upper Shimla, the Forest Department went to the extent of felling apple trees from orchards on “forest land.” In Kinnaur, 98 such notices have been served to so-called “encroachers”.

Fearing further action, the people of Kinnaur, earlier on July 25, 2015, organised a huge rally at District headquarters, Rekong Peo, questioning the manner in which the Forest Department is implementing the orders of the High Court.

The activists emphasized on the importance of understanding the right to claim titles in “Forest” areas occupied prior to December 13, 2005, is clearly provided in the FRA for the individuals regarded as “encroachers” under the previous legal framework.

The provisions of this Act are applicable for Scheduled Tribes and other forest-dwelling communities, which mean almost the entire state. This is a special Act that supersedes all other previous acts related to forests like the Indian Forest Act 1927 or the Forest Conservation Act 1980.

It is a matter of concern that the state government failed to bring the issue of this non-implementation of the FRA Act to the attention of the High Court, the activists said.

As per the Section 5(4) of Chapter III of the FRA,

No member of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dwellers shall be evicted or removed from forest land under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is complete.

According to the 2011 Census, of the total workforce in Himachal, around 62 percents are cultivators and agricultural labourers. This means that a majority of the population dependent completely on farming and forests (livestock rearing) as a livelihood is not a beneficiary in the state budget allocations, the activists said.

Further, the falling number of jobs in the private sector has added to the crises between communities, which could ultimately lead to distress migration, visible in states like Uttarakhand, they said expressing concern.

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HP Govt says schools within Shimla MC area closed for week due to high tourist footfall, not water crisis

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holiday in HP Govt school in shimla city

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Government has decided to shut-down all government schools falling within the jurisdiction of Shimla Municipal Corporation for a week.

From June 4 to June 8, all primary, middle, higher, and senior secondary schools will remain closed.

However, the interesting part the reasons given in the official notification issued by the Director of Higher Education, Dr Amar Dev on June 2.

It doesn’t include even a slight reference to the ongoing chaos over water scarcity.
As per the notification, the Higher and Primary Education of Departments, HP, has decided to announce a holiday due to higher movement of tourists during the peak tourist season.

Another reason that was cited in the notification, was that the Departments have taken this reason considering the pattern of the private schools that have already announced a summer break.

There is a condition too. The schools will not get the holidays they used to get during monsoon, which was the set pattern. The Education Minister, Suresh Bhardwaj, suggested the government might change the pattern permanently. 

It’s for the first time that government schools are being given summer holidays. Shimla town has always been a popular tourist destination and the tourist footfall has always been high during the summer season,

the former Mayor of the city, Sanjay Chauhan, told Himachal Watcher.

The Government doesn’t have enough guts to admit that ongoing water crisis is a reason behind it because that would expose not only its poor response to the situation but a huge mismanagement and unfair treatment in the distribution of drinking water too,

the further added.

It appears to be an attempt to kill two birds with one stone. The hotels were forced to cancel bookings and buy water from private tankers on the very high rate. The tourist faced a lot of inconveniences and they are trying to avoid Shimla, the hoteliers have been alleging.

The registered hotels are not receiving supply from the Corporation, but hundreds of unregistered guest houses/flats that have mushroomed in residential localities illegally are consuming domestic water via tankers for commercial purpose. The registered hotels are buying water from private tankers as there is no other choice. The SMC cites High Court orders due to which the supply to hotels in the town is prohibited via SMC tankers. So, tourists are in fact facing problems, but still hotels are facilitating them at their own level, 

 

Sanjay Sood, the President of Hotel & Restaurant Association of Northern India told HW. 

So, citing a higher tourist footfall would suggest that the town is doing fine and there is only a little shortage of water but no crisis. Secondly, the Government was compelled to close the schools, as there was no water – neither for drinking nor for cooking mid-day meals and cleaning of toilets.

Does it suggest that our elected government is not being honest enough to tell the truth to its people?

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Water Crisis Shimla: Common people not receiving water despite 7 MLD increase in daily supply

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chakka jam in shimla city over water scarcity

Chief Minister, who is out of Shimla, has given a media statement claiming that 28.47 MLD water was received and equally distributed as per the schedule today.

Shimla: The series of aggressive protests continues in Shimal city on Saturday over scarcity as well as unequal distribution of drinking water to the people. The residents of the Vikasnagar Ward today blocked the Shimla-Dhalli bypass by holding a ‘chakka jam’ at Vikasnagar. The road was blocked at the time of writing and there was a long line of vehicles on both sides. 

While some Wards have received some relief, the residents alleged they are not receiving any supply for over past 10 days despite the schedule released by the Shimla Municipal Corporations for the supply of water in three zones of the city.

photos of shimla city water scarcity

Similarly, the public in Kasumpti area did not receive a supply as per the schedule. Vikasnagar and Kasumpti were supposed to get a supply on Friday. However, the supply never reached them.

The SMC had given us an assurances of supply on Thursday but didn’t do so. The same assurance was passed on for the next day (Friday). However, we have not received any supply yesterday or today.  The distribution of water is not at all equal,

the Ward Councilor, Rachana, told Himachal Watcher 

Watch: Chakka Jam at Vikasnagar 

Today, even directions were issued for suspension of an SDO of the SMC  for negligence in water distribution in Shimla town.

When, on the complaint of the locals, Himachal Watcher tried to call the numbers of the keymen and Nodal Officer given with the schedule, they were either out of reach or switched off or busy.

The divide between VIPs and common people has also come to light, as influential ones are able to manipulate the distribution system. On Thursday, the locals had exposed an illegal water pipeline connected to the apartment in a VIP locality that belong to an influential leader of the ruling party.

The extent to which the VIP culture and corruption is prevalent could be assessed from the fact that the High Court had to direct deployment of at least two policemen with each keyman to ensure equal distribution.

However, the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and his ministers, especially the Health Minister Vipin Singh Parmar, are releasing media statement claiming the government has done a fantastic job and the people are getting an equal share of water.

The six-member committee constituted under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary is regularly holding meetings and monitoring the water availability and distribution process every evening to ensure that people were getting sufficient water. A schedule has been prepared and the city has been divided into three zones for water supply which was being followed strictly and being monitored by the committee,

claimed the State government.

Chief Minister, who is out of Shimla, has given a media statement claiming that 28.47 MLD water was received and equally distributed as per the schedule today.

The government claimed an increase of more than 7 MLD within a week while the public is in some localities still not received any water today.

People are asking to whom and where this water is being supplied.

HP Tourism department also claimed that there was a shortage of water but there was no crisis as being reported in a section of the press.

Health Minister Vipin Singh Parmar again gave a statement boasting that efforts of the State government to resolve the water crisis situation in Shimla town has started showing positive results.

Unaware of the ground reality, Parmar is still focusing on giving political statements to counter opposition leader Mukesh Agnihotri.

The Chief Minister and Parmar are putting the entire blame on the previous government.

Congress government was responsible for the water crisis in Shimla as it failed to execute any water supply scheme for the town,

he said.

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