Construction banned, fest postponed in Shimla over water woes

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Shimla, May 29 (IANS) Acting tough over the acute shortage of portable water in the capital for almost a week, the Himachal Pradesh High Court on Tuesday suspended all construction activity for a week and said no water would be supplied through tankers to the VIPs, including judges.

The much awaited five-day annual summer festival of dance and music here, set to begin on June 1, has also been postponed due to the water scarcity.

In a resumed hearing, a division bench headed by acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol directed the state that all construction activity within the Shimla planning area will forthwith remain suspended for at least one week.

Thereafter, depending upon the prevalent, a committee will take an appropriate decision in this regard.

“An endeavour shall be made by the Chief Secretary to immediately approach the army authorities for diverting the water used for watering the golf course at Annadale as also the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, which has got huge water storage tanks, to meet emergent situation within the municipal limits of Shimla,” said the bench, which a day earlier took suo moto cognizance of the acute shortage of water.

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The bench was categorically clear in saying except under extreme emergency situations, no water through tankers shall be supplied to any individual, more so in a VIP area, be it the judges, ministers, MLAs, bureaucrats, police officers and commercial establishments.

However, this order would not include the residences and offices of the Governor and the Chief Minister, it added.

Listing the case for next hearing on Wednesday, the bench, also comprising Justice Ajay Mohan Goel, directed the Muncipal Commissioner to personally remain present in the court and file the compliance report.

During the hearing, the court was informed that Chief Secretary Vineet Chawdhry was monitoring the situation on an hourly basis.

“As on date, approximately 18.5 million litres per day (MLD) of water is being received from all sources,” said the government, adding measures for plugging the leakage of approximately 3.5 MLD water have been already taken.

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Shimla’s normal demand of water is 42 to 45 MLD, civic body officials told IANS.

They blame leaks in the distribution network, a significant portion of which came up in the British days, and diminishing water resources due to over-exploitation.

While Shimla residents are grappling with water woes — not exactly for the first time — Mayor Kusum Sadrate of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is helming the Municipal Corporation for the first time in three decades since June 2017, is away in China on an official tour.

Meanwhile, a scuffle was ensured when protesting Communist Party of India-Marxist activists were stopped by police from entering the office of the Municipal Corporation here.

They were raising slogans against the civic body and were demanding to meet the Deputy Mayor to lodge their protest over water shortage.

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Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who is also monitoring the situation, said 35 additional water takers have been deployed to supply water to those areas facing acute shortage.

“We are arranging transportation of water from nearby Solan and Bilaspur districts,” he told reporters.

Even tourists are feeling the pinch.

“I reached my hotel this morning from Delhi and found that there was no water in the toilet. I was charged Rs 200 for a bucket of water,” tourist Harpreet Ahuja told IANS, adding he cancelled his hotel booking and will be returning home.

Another tourist Vinod Yadav, who reached Shimla from Kalka in a toy train, said toilets in the train were stinking as there was no water.

He said even the toilets at the Shimla railway station were locked due to water shortage.

–IANS

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