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Water Crisis Shimla: HC orders surveillance on ‘Keymen’ via WhatsApp group after taking note of unequal distribution

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Petition on Water crisis in Shimla city

Shimla: The High Court of Himachal Pradesh doing what the officers of Shimla Municipal Corporation and the State Government were supposed to do in return of the fat amount of salary and free facilities they claim from the public tax money every month.  The SMC has put an additional burden on the court as it is now compelled to supervise supply of drinking water to the Shimla city.  

Several localities including Kasumpti and Vikasnagar did not receive any supply as per the schedule released by the SMC.

On Friday, the court took note of the complaints filed by the amicus curie regarding unequal distribution of water, mainly by manipulating the keymen.

Keyman is the Key as far as the distribution of water to the ultimate consumer is concerned. He is the first and the last person between the water available for distribution and the consumer. If he performs his duty honestly, prudently and skillfully, he can ensure equal distribution of water to all, but if a Keyman happens to abuse his position, then the results can be disastrous,

a bench comprising acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Ajay Mohan Goyal observed while hearing a petition regarding town’s ongoing severe water crisis.

The Keyman not only holds the key to it but in fact on the strength of Key, he can put the entire town to ransom,

the bench further observed.

Create WhatsApp Group to Monitor Keymen

Therefore, the court has directed the Shimla MC to create a dedicated Whatsapp group to monitor the Keymen in the town, which can be done easily as currently, there are total 62 Keymen deciding the fate of the distribution of the water.

The group would be supervised by the Assistant, Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Shimla, Municipal Engineer, Municipal Corporation, Shimla and all Junior Engineers dealing with the supply of potable water, deployed with SMC.

The court further directed that group should share details of water received from various Schemes for distribution and also the details of its distribution with details of Zones constituted by the Committee framed by the State.

The court said there should be hourly updates in this regard in the group. Junior Engineer concerned should share details of all Keymen under them, including the timing and the place where each Keyman has either opened the key for allowing the water to flow or closed the same.

The Whatsapp group should be updated within five minutes of turning the key on or off.

If any keyman is not able to update the action on Whatsapp, then they have been told to provide said information from their Mobiles to the concerned Junior Engineer(s).

The court has held each Junior Engineer responsible to update this data on the Whatsapp group. It also warned that any laxity exercised by anyone will amount to contempt of orders passed.

In order to check the inequitable distribution of water by the Keyman, all Keymen shall be kept under surveillance and they should be accompanied by at least two police officials. The keymen will have to record a video of turning the key On and Off, the court directed.  

The group will also be used to upload overflowing of water to ensure immediate remedial measures within 30 minutes of the updates. The court also mentioned that it was brought to its attention that the tank of an SMC employee was seen overflowing while his neighbourhood did not get even a drop of water and that no action was taken by SMC despite complaint.  

The court has given the SMC the liberty to disconnect the water connections of persons/parties in case overflowing of water is reported on their part.

Meanwhile, the Corporation initiated the drive to disconnect the water connection of hotels listed as defaulters. By Friday evening, connection to 15 hotels was disconnected and about 31, more would be disconnected on Saturday.

This action has created a stir among the defaulters. Unfortunately, the SMC has been patronizing these defaulters for long. The Corporation cites the lack of funds as the main reason for the lack of the public facilities. However, on the other hand, it never bothered to extract a large amount of money that is pending with a large number of defaulters.

Next hearing in the petition has been scheduled for June 11, 2018.  The court has directed the Principal Secretary (Tourism) and the Commissioner,  SMC to remain personally remain present on the next date of hearing.

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 9 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 the world around him in his DSLR lens.

Environment

Himachal: Report Forest Fires on Toll-Free Numbers 1077 and 1070

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helpline for Forest Fires in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Forest fire is a recurrent annual phenomenon in Himachal Pradesh and causes losses worth several crores every year. Dry spell and summers make forests, especially chir pine forests, highly vulnerable to forest fires. These forest fires not only damage the forest wealth but also hit wildlife and biodiversity in general. The forest department attributes most fires to human factors.

Like every year, the forest department has claimed that it is all geared up and ready to combat forest fires this year too. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Dr. Savita on Monday held a virtual review meeting with Forest Circles on preparedness for forest fires in the state.

She said that the Forest department was well prepared to fight the forest fires and a rapid forest fire fighting force and rapid response teams had been set up at forest division and range levels.

“Approximately 40,000 man-days of fire watchers would be engaged by the department in addition to existing frontline staff for preventing and combating forest fires,” she said. The state disaster control room with toll-free number 1077 at the state level and 1070 at the district level were operational for reporting of the forest fire by the local community, she informed.

Dr. Savita said messages regarding forest fire had been shared with the members of the rapid forest fire fighting force, in which approximately 50,000 volunteers had already been registered. Awareness to the community was also conducted through Nukkar Nataks, songs, speeches and other activities at different locations in the state. Besides, a massive state-level awareness program was also conducted at 45 places from 10 to 17 March 2021

She said that the department had created forest fire lines and did control burning and also constructed water storage structures in the forest areas to combat forest fires. Additional multi-utility vehicles and water loaded tankers in 80 fire-sensitive ranges had been engaged for three months. She that matter regarding Standard Operating Systems (SOPs) for requisition of helicopter services for dousing the forest fires had been sent to the Government for approval. 

Feature Photo: Unsplash@Thematthoward

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Himachal Counts 108,578 Waterbirds of 96 Species This Year With Increase in Habitat

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Annual Bird Count in Himachal Pradesh 2021

Shimla-The habitat of migratory and resident water-birds in Himachal Pradesh has gradually improved, said Forest Minister Rakesh Pathania.

The annual water-bird count at Pong Dam Lake Wildlife Sanctuary was conducted in the first of February, 2021 and the exercise was conducted under restrained conditions due to the prevailing Avian Influenza outbreak in Pong Dam Lake as well as the COVID-19 Pandemic, he said.

The exercise was conducted by Wildlife wing of Himachal Pradesh by deploying 57 staff members in 26 sections of the sanctuary for counting the water-dependent birds.

Total 108,578 birds of 96 species were counted during this year. Out of the total number, 101,431 of 51 species are water-dependent migratory birds and 6,433 of 29 species are water-dependent resident birds. As many as 714 birds of 16 other species were also recorded. The total population of the flagship species, Bar-Headed Geese, is 40,570.

The other species which have higher population count during this year are Eurasian Coot (24,163), Northern Pintail (12,702), Common Teal (8,444), Little Cormorant (3,649), Great Cormorant (3,410), Grey Lag Goose (2,297), Northern Shoveler (2,275) and Common Pochard (2,138). The species which find noticeable mention are Red Necked Grebe, Great Bittern, Lesser White-Fronted Goose, Red Crested Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Pied Avocet, Northern Lapwing, Peregrine Falcon etc. During the counting exercise, one Bar-headed Goose and one Grey Lag Goose with collars were also spotted.

This year the Annual bird count exercise assumes significance, considering the Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary. Further, the Minister expressed satisfaction over the timely and effective containment measures taken by Wildlife Wing to control and contain Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary.

PCCF (Wildlife) Archana Sharma and CCF Wildlife (North) Dharamshala Upasana Patial also participated and supervised the Annual Water Bird Count.

The total population of birds, as well as number of species, counted this year are marginally less as compared to last year, probably due to the impact of Avian Influenza outbreak which was first reported on 28th December 2020.

Although the total population of water birds declined during the peak of the Avian Influenza outbreak, there is a gradual increase in the total population of birds, the Minister informed.

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Himachal First State to Complete Assessment of Snow Leopard and its Wild Prey

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Snow Leopard Population Assessment in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-The assessment of snow leopard population in Himachal Pradesh has been completed by the state wildlife wing in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) Bangalore following the protocol aligning with the SPAI (Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India) protocols of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Himachal Pradesh has become the first state to complete assessment of snow leopard and its wild prey.

The state has an estimated population of up to 73 snow leopards.

It is the first scientifically robust estimate of snow leopards and its prey for the State. Since snow leopard is the state animal, the study assumes great significance for Himachal Pradesh.
The exercise revealed that snow leopard density ranged from 0.08 to 0.37 individuals per 100 sq.km., with the trans-Himalayan regions of Spiti, Pin valley and upper Kinnaur recording the highest densities, both of the predator and its prey, mainly ibex and blue sheep.

This study covered the entire potential snow leopard habitat of Himachal Pradesh: an area of 26,112 sq.km., utilising a stratified sampling design. Camera trapping surveys were conducted at 10 sites to representatively sample all the strata i.e. high, low and unknown. The camera trap deployment over the mountainous terrains was led by a team of eight local youth of Kibber village and more than 70 frontline staff of HPFD were trained in this technique as part of the project. Snow leopards were detected at all the 10 sites (Bhaga, Chandra, Bharmour, Kullu, Miyar, Pin, Baspa, Tabo, Hangrang & Spiti) suggesting that snow leopards are found in the entire snow leopard habitat in Himachal Pradesh either as resident individuals of a population or as dispersing individuals navigating through these connecting habitats.

Another revelation from the study is that a bulk of snow leopard occurrence is outside protected areas, reiterating the fact that local communities are the strongest allies for conservation in snow leopard landscapes.

The NCF and wildlife wing collaborated in the effort and it took three years to complete the assessment. MoEFCC had launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India, on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day. You can read the complete protocol here.

Snow leopard is the icon of high mountains of Asia. In India, they inhabit the higher Himalayan and TransHimalayan landscape in an altitudinal range between approximately 3,000 m to 5,400 m above MSL, spanning c. 100,000 km2 in the five states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This area contributes to about 5% of the global snow leopard range.

Snow leopards occur over a vast, relatively remote and difficult to access mountainous area. Together with their elusive nature, this makes a complete population census of snow leopards an unfeasible goal. Even their distribution remains unclear. For example, recent surveys show that they do not occur in 25 % of the area that was thought to be their range in the state of Himachal Pradesh Their density is expected to be variable in space, dependent on several factors such as habitat suitability, prey availability, disturbance and connectivity. Variation in density across space also poses the risk of biased sampling, and, indeed, most of the snow leopard population assessments conducted so far across the world are biased towards the best habitats.

Feature Photo: Pexels/Charles Miller

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