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Himachal Pradesh’s water crisis and potential solutions

According to the Meteorological Department, the state has received only 59 milliliters of water in the last season, which is 69 percent less than usual.

Mitali Gautam | Shimla |

Tourists who visit Himachal Pradesh for its natural beauty have a very distinct mental image of the state filled with lush green hills, flowing rivers, fresh breezes, and mountains covered with snow. But today, they are greeted by unwelcome sights: long queues at public taps with residents complaining about not having enough water to drink.

Previously, only the winter and summer seasons were popular with tourists, but no longer so. We can observe that all four seasons are now popular with visitors. During the summers the water crisis becomes acute.

In fact, with the onset of climate change water scarcity has become a major issue in this hilly state. Even the state capital, Shimla, is not immune from this scourge. Many water projects were on the verge of being abandoned. Reason: The state is receiving less snow and rain during the winter, resulting in less water in water bodies like rivers, ponds, and lakes. Soon after the winter season, these sources of water begin to dry up, putting the perennial sources of water like the Satluj and Beas rivers in the danger of running dry.

According to the Meteorological Department, the state has received only 59 milliliters of water in the last season, which is 69 percent less than usual. In addition, as the state’s population has grown over the past ten years, there has been a rise in demand for water, particularly in urban areas, and people are now depending more on piped water delivery systems than on the conventional sources like springs and bawris.

The patterns of rainfall have also changed. Water sources are drying up fast in some places, particularly in the Shivalik Hills where the soil has a very low water-holding capacity. Many communities in different constituencies go without water for weeks on end.

Even in normal times, areas like Dalhousie and Banikhet experience water shortages, but in recent years, drought-like situations have already become a reality and are only expected to worsen in the years to come.

Consequences

Crop loss and decline in availability of fodder are the result of water storage. In 2018, Himachal Pradesh experienced insufficient rain and snowfall, and a summertime drinking water crisis in Shimla drew media attention from around the world. Documents from the Shimla Municipal Corporation state that the town needs roughly 45 MLD, yet even on typical days the present yield is only 32 MLD. Shimla’s position has improved as a result of the Gumma stream’s water sources being increased to offer 10 million liters of water per day.

Following are the tips for the state to resolve the water crisis:

  1. The installation of hand pumps and borewells
  2. Rainwater gathering efforts should be concentrated in urban areas where it is most needed.
  3. During the time of a water shortage, multiple water tanks should be kept.
  4. Investigating the possibility of “snow harvesting” at higher elevations
  5. Increasing the water supply in both cities and rural areas.

Judicious use of water in agriculture

  1. It is acknowledged that the major way to attain sustainable water for agriculture is through “supply side management,” which can address overall water scarcity.
  2. eco-friendly farming practices, such as intense high-input systems, crop diversity, biological pest management, and conservation tillage can be adopted.
  3. Measures must be taken to help farmers use and reuse irrigation water effectively.

Household water conservation

  1. To complement the efforts of governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), conscious efforts must be made by the households as well as at community-level towards water conservation.
  2. Consistent action should be taken to prevent contamination of groundwater, and water bodies, and to ensure effective treatment of domestic wastewater.
  3. If we have to leave a planet that is habitable for future generations, we need to practice the three Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle.