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Posted at: Jun 10, 2018, 12:12 AM; last updated: Jun 10, 2018, 12:12 AM (IST)

Mussoorie, Nainital remain woefully thirsty

Neena Sharma
The absence of potable water has led to ‘de-population’ of 734 villages across the state in the last seven years
Mussoorie, Nainital remain woefully thirsty
Hills drying up: Even in rural areas of Uttarakhand, accessing potable water is a hard grind especially for women. Tribune photo

Neena Sharma in Dehradun

A couple of months back, a fire had broken out in a house in Happy Valley area of Mussoorie. The flames soon threatened to burn down the neighbourhood. The fire department, already facing an acute shortage of water for the past few days, had to approach the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) for water supply to douse the fire. Assistant engineer of Uttrakhand Jal Sansthan (Mussoorie), TS Rawat, said water has always been an issue in Mussoorie, especially in the peak tourist season.

Ditto for Nainital. A government report says the water level in the Nainital Lake has been declining following unbridled encroachment in the Sukhtal catchment region of the lake. The tourist influx has further burdened the limited water infrastructure. 

In Mussoorie hills, the tourist season peaks in May-July. Though there is a shortfall during the offseason, the demand (14.4 million litres per day, MLD) during the tourist season far outstrips the supply (7.67 MLD). The Peyjal Nigam’s efforts to access more water for Mussoorie have led to ill-conceived water schemes that have involved huge sums of money. The water scarcity also affects the tourist revenue potential of Mussoorie and Nainital. Elsewhere in Uttarakhand, places like Pauri, too, face the same problem. 

Last month the State Commission on Migration released a report that says the absence of potable water is the main reason for the ‘de-population’ of 734 villages across the state in the last seven years. In Pauri district, water scarcity in the one-km radius of habitation, around 97 villages were abandoned. Most residents have left around 35 villages in Pitahoragarh, 29 in Bageshwar and 22 in Champawat. 

Another report prepared by the National Rural Water Programme points out that out of the 39,202 village/habitations, only 21,363 had adequate water.

Uttarakhand’s water supply is managed through 5,177 water sources. These include 477 tube-wells, 3,470 ponds, 1,180 springs and 80 rivers and their tributaries. There are 26 urban water supply schemes. 

“All the underground water resources need winter rains for re-charging. What is happening is that in the last couple of years, the winter rains have been negligible. As a result, the discharge from these resources has considerably reduced. We need mild rains of long duration. We need snowfall and winter rains to recharge the groundwater for the next summer,” says Neelima Garg, secretary appraisal, Jal Sansthan.

Director of the Centre of Excellence for Natural Resources (data management), Almora, JS Rawat, says the villages located in the hills had enough water bodies to take care of their needs. “But due to neglect and changing weather patterns, the traditional water bodies are fast disappearing. Winter precipitation has been declining. How will the springs re-charge?” he says. “Gone are the days of snowfall that would begin in December and continue till March. All this was quite common before the state was created about 18 years back.” 

Poor management of water resources and haphazard planning with short-term fixes have compounded matters. “There is no long-term planning to conserve and maintain the existing water resources,” says Ravi Chopra of People’s Science Institute (PSI), an NGO.

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