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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.

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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

HP Sports Policy Will be Amended For Specially Abled Students: Govt

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HP Sports Policy Amendment

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Sports Policy will be amended to provide equal participation in sports to visually impaired and specially-abled students, announced the state government on August 7, 2019.

This announcement was made by the Sports Minister Govind Singh Thakur during Van Mahotsav function at Baldeyan panchayat of Shimla district. The event was organised by the Non-Profit Organization Umang Foundation for visually impaired and specially-abled students.

About 200 specially-abled students of Himachal Pradesh University, Govt. Degree College Sanjauli, Special School Dhali and Portmore school along with members of Umang Foundation planted around 250 Deodar plants in association with the forest department.

Visually impaired and other specially-abled persons could also equally contribute in the society if given ample opportunity, the Minister said. He also announced to provide 15 laptops to Umang Foundation for visually impaired students for pursuing higher education. Rs 50 thousand were also announced for these students.

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Garbage Dumping Polluting Giri Ganga River – A Drinking Water Supply Source of Shimla

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Giri Ganga River pollution in Shimla

Shimla– The Gumma Nagar Panchayat in Kotkhai, Shimla district, like most of the other rural areas, lacks a proper solid waste management system. As a result, the usual method adopted here is dumping daily solid waste down the hill in an official dumping yard.

The locals from the panchayat wrote to Himachal Watcher regarding the adverse effect the dumping site in Gumma causing.

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district 03 (2)

Overflowing dumping site in Gumma

They said the panchayat has allocated the site shown in the photo above to dump their garbage. This garbage is mostly left unsorted. 

With the growing population and increasing number of shops, the hillside is now overflowing with rubbish. This overflowing waste from the dump finds its way down to the Giri river water. 

It not only looks unsightly but also emits a foul smell. Moreover, the half-burnt rubbish flies in all directions, mostly downhill into the water.

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district 3

The office of the Assistant Engineer, IPH Subdivision Gumma, is located near to this location. Still, the issue is being ignored. 

“Interestingly, the Department of Irrigation & Public Health is sitting above the location, blind and oblivious to it all,”

Devanshe Chauhan Lidgley, a local told Himachal Watcher.

IPH Office in Gumma

Office of the Assistant Engineer, IPH, Gumma

She further added,

“Complaints have been made to the Gumma Panchayat Pradhan who showed helplessness since it was a decision made by higher officials,”

The panchayat pradhan of Gumma told HW that, indeed, the area is facing a problem with daily garbage. There are five wards in the Nagar panchayat, and villagers do not have any common dumping ground. 

“The villagers have found suitable spots near their habitats where they dump their daily garbage,”

Tara Chauhan, the Pradhan of the panchayat told HW

“The dumping site shown in the pictures is particularly created to accommodate daily waste generated by shops in the market. The market has about 300 shops, and the daily waste is transported through pic-ups to the dumping site,”

she added.  

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district 03 (1)

A Pick-up dumping Gumma Market’s daily waste downhill

She also accepted that this dumping site is now overflowing as the amount of waste dumped is increasing. The issue has been brought to the attention of district administration of Shimla, she said, adding that the administration has asked the panchayat to find a new location for the creation of another dumping yard. However, it’s hard to procure land for it as no one would allow the creation of dumping site on private land, she said. 

“Earlier, we used to set the garbage ablaze when dumping reached on the verge of overflowing. However, now, we have directions not to burn garbage as it causes air pollution,”

Chauhan told HW. 

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district

As a matter of fact, the said dumping site is overflowing and, in monsoon, a lot of waste is likely to find its way into the Giri Ganga. 

Giri Ganga is one of the main sources of drinking water supply to Shimla, and there is no need to say more why it requires immediate intervention of the district administration and the state pollution control board to prevent water pollution.

In the past, Shimla has already witnessed instances of jaundice outbreaks due to contaminated water that had killed about two dozen people.  However, it appears, we are waiting for another catastrophe to happen before appropriate action is taken.  

The garbage dumped here needs to be removed regularly and disposed of properly before the next truck of garbage is dumped. 

“Is the ‘Swaacch Bharat’ campaign only on papers? How can the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) succeed if the sources of Ganga are being polluted?”

asked the local.

It is a matter of concern that the district administration is still stuck at creating dumping yards, which is not a proper way to dispose of solid waste. At the same time, the villagers are left at their own to deal with the daily waste they generate. The State government needs to provide a solid waste treatment facility in rural areas.  

However, there are reasons to believe that the government is hardly concerned about this gigantic environmental issue. The only waste treatment plant that was supposed to convert Shimla town’s municipal waste into energy, is lying defunct. Instead, the locals allege, the plant has been turned into a dumping yard, which was on fire last month. The fire kept smouldering for over a week. 

A similar example was witnessed in Kenduwal of Baddi in Solan district where the Municipal Council and the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA) were supposed to construct a solid waste treatment plant. They had obtained the clearance for the same on August 13, 2015, and were allotted 42 bighas and 13 Biswas of land in Kenduwal. 

However, the plant never came up and the two responsible authorities created a huge dumping site by violating a number of environmental laws and guidelines. Not only they created this site on the flood-plains of Sirsa river but also ignored human habitat located at a distance of 30 meters from it.  The families living in this habitat had to approach the state High Court to get relief from the hellish conditions created by this illegal dumping site. 

 

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Neglecting Warnings of Environmental Groups, Studies, HP Govt to Sign MoU for 5 More Hydro Power Projects

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Five more SJVNL hydroproject in himachal Pradesh

Shimla-Ignoring the appeals of the environmental groups and studies indicating devastating effects of hydro power projects on Himalayan ecology and on the lives of the locals, the State government of Himachal Pradesh has decided to allocate five more projects.

An Environmental group Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective had in June 2019 released their report titled “The Hidden Cost of Hydropower” to highlight the risks associated with hydro power construction, especially in Himalayan regions like Himachal Pradesh.  Echoing the fragility of the Himalayan region due to geological instability and climate change-related disasters like flash floods and cloud bursts, the report had highlighted the role of construction activities that accentuate this fragility.

However, in a meeting Chaired by the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on July 6, 2019, the government has decided to sign 5 MoUs with SJVNL.

“Proper memorandum of understanding (MoU) would be signed for five hydro power projects most likely in the month of August, this year, which have been allocated to the SJVNL,

Chief Minister said.

These projects include Luhri stage-1 (210 MW), Sunni Dam (382 MW), Dhola Sidh (66 MW), Luhri, stage-2 (172 MW) and Jangi Thopan (780 MW).

“These five hydro power projects have the potential of investment of Rs. 15,000 crores and would provide employment to around 8,000 people,”

he said.

He also suggested that the Chenab river basin would also be developed as it has a capacity of 3000 MW hydro-power generation. The five projects allocated in the Chenab basin have been cancelled and now the government would consider the viability before further allocation of these projects and providing concession to the investors, he said. 

The Chief Minister termed the decision as best possible efforts to boost investment in the hydro power sector. He claimed that this sector is not only an engine of growth but also has immense potential to provide employment. He said the government would expedite the pace of execution of power projects, which had slowed down during the last few years.

The above-mentioned report of the Himdhara Collective had also found that over the last few years, increasing evidence has emerged that hydro power production may not be so ‘clean and green’ after all.  This report, that compiled primary and secondary pieces of evidence of the impacts triggered by underground construction for the run of the river (ROR) hydropower projects, highlighted the issues of environmental hazards and risks involved.

The Report had also mentioned that there are severe environmental hazards linked to the construction of these projects, which the government was not ready to admit. As a result of this deliberate neglection, the villagers, rivers, local water sources, farming lands, local wildlife etc. were suffering. Houses of people were destroyed due to seepage of water from tunnels of hydropower projects and they were forced to evacuate.

The Report had also said that the Ministry of Power had issued an order in March 2019 recognizing hydro power projects with a capacity of more than 25 MW as ‘renewable’ source of energy, thus eligible for further subsidies. Himdhara’s report, however, had brought out that hydro projects do not deserve the ‘green’ tag and the government should stop further subsiding the sector, especially large projects.

You can read the complete Report Here

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