Once a Summer Capital of India, Shimla is Now Under Water Crisis

In British India, Shimla was declared as the summer capital of India and was used to hold important political meetings in the serene, beautiful and nature-blessed surroundings. Everyone was awestruck with the naturally built forest, gorgeous water streams and pleasantly cold weather at the time when the Indian plains faces a blazing heat. It is no surprise that Shimla is one of the favourite holiday destinations, especially during summers. In fact, the tourism is the primary source of revenue for this capital of Himachal Pradesh. But the year 2018 is no good for tourism industry at Shimla. It is only because the land of divine beauty is facing a serious water crisis.

How bad is the situation?

Though Shimla is facing a scarcity for drinkable water since past three summers, the year 2018 broke the camel’s back. The water issue has become so serious that locals have urged the people on the social media platforms to not to visit Shimla this summer. And this has negatively affected the tourism for this year with around 50 percent cancellations in the hotel bookings.

Nearly 2,00,000 residents are yearning for potable drinking water. The state government is making provisions but in vain as the supply is being made once in 3-4 days. The primary reservoirs of Himachal Pradesh are having 50 percent lower quantity of water than the normal value. Even the basic demand of water for sanitation and flushing seems hard to be fulfilled.

The demand for water during tourist season in Shimla goes up to 45 million litres per day (MLD). In this summer, the available quantity of water has been recorded as 20 MLD. This is scary.

Rainwater harvesting is a big hope

The Shimla city always had ample sources of natural waters along with a reasonable amount of precipitation. Rainfall, water streams from mountains and snow water are major mediums for providing water for reservoirs and the vegetation helped in refilling underground waterbeds by retaining the ground runoff water into the soil.

Earlier, several wells were dug during British reign in Mount Jakhu, the highest peak of the city and these wells were used to store the snow during the winter season. The water from the melted snow gets penetrated underground, recharges the groundwater and resulted in spouting of perennial springs during summers. But these wells structure got buried into the earth due to urbanization of the city. Some waterfalls have disappeared too.

The reasons like uncontrolled deforestation, exposure to air pollutants, adverse changes in the climate and unplanned infrastructural growth has led to such a pity situation for this hill station. These have also led down the amount of precipitation.

Being a capital of Himachal Pradesh, it is bound to have a population explosion. With setting up of major government offices, the city has to accommodate people who came in search for jobs in the prestigious government offices. And being an ideal hill station, it keeps on getting moving population as well. This is too much for a city who has been neglected for long, in terms of preserving its natural water sources and manmade water conservation structures.

Rainwater harvesting (RWH) is a concrete solution to give a reasonable amount of relief in this situation of haphazardness. The method involves installation of harvesting structures whose basic components include a catchment surface, conveyance system, storage structure, distribution channel, and water treatment devices. The water is collected on rooftops or catchment areas, filtered for impurities and drain through the pipes into a storage tank or recharge well.

The number of factors that favours the use of such system in Shimla, are:

  • The houses in Shimla have sloped roof structures which are advantageous construction patterns for storing rainwater efficiently.
  • There are external water sources in form of streams and waterfalls, which can be directed towards water recharging well.
  • 75% of rainfall is received between the months of June to September.
  • The filtration chambers can receive water with fewer impurities for monkey droppings, pollen, pine needles by using a mesh used at the mouth of an outlet pipe.

RWH system installed in a household can produce enough reserve for activities of sanitation, flushing, gardening, etc. At least, this will lift some of the burden from household’s primary water distribution channel.

Not just houses, industries and offices must invest in rainwater harvesting solutions too.

With these systems in action, water is allowed to stand for a long period, on the ground-based storage structures and some amount of water gets percolate into the ground through the seepage. This will help in recharging underground water. The water pump, wells, and handpump can use this underground water reserve in future.

Some other steps are needed too

Setting up of the rainwater harvesting systems must be complemented by digging up the various water sources, instead of just relying upon monsoon and snow.

  • Create relevant drains to divert the water from main river sources into narrower water streams.
  • Along with storage systems and groundwater recharging methodologies, plantation of lost vegetation should not be missed. This is a natural remedy for retaining more water underground.
  • Build large catchment areas around the primary water bodies to capture maximum runoff water from these sources.

And most importantly, preserve water. Minimize the wastage and encourage reusability of greywater (wastewater from a kitchen sink, showers, and laundry fixtures)

 What RWH products would be needed in the process – available at Chaitanya Products

The RWH system is a simple setup that needs some basic equipment and materials at each phase – catchment, filtration, transportation, and storage.

The rainwater drainage gutters are needed to drain rainwater from the rooftop catchment area, into the borewell or storage well. These drainage gutters can be customised based on the site’s requirement for shape and size.

The rooftop runoff water usually contains impurities like tiny plastic materials used for painting, dirt, debris, leaves, pine. They can block the plumbing system when the water is made to pass through the conveyor pipes. Hence filtration becomes a mandatory practice.

Wire filter screens are most suitable filtration options for open gutters and can be installed along the length of the gutter. These are suitable for keeping coarse impurities at bay. For fine filtration, a filter made by PVC pipes is recommended. At the storage area of rainwater harvesting system, the use of gravels of different sizes further helps in percolation of filtered water into the ground or storage unit.

Shimla needs a proper survey for installation of rainwater harvesting systems, at industrial, household and city level. The RWH services will produce an actionable survey and feasibility reports. The hydrogeological inspection helps in understanding the potential of rainwater harvesting for the chosen area.


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