By Vishal Gulati
Old-style and unscientific disposal of sewage and solid waste is threatening the pristine environment and water sources of Shimla, known as the Queen of Hills during the British colonial period. Shimla also forms part of the Himalayan ecology.
Its wooded deodars, Raj-style structures and chuckling peaks on the horizon may lure you, but it’s not an easygoing effort as the shortage of water and parking lots in Shimla will leave you high and dry.
These observations came to light in the latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General that highlights the inadequacies of the Shimla Municipal Corporation.
It says that just 13 percent of the sewage generated in Shimla is treated and the rest is left in the open – despite Rs.74 crore ($12 million) being spent for installing six treatment plants.
Planned for a maximum population of 16,000, Shimla is home to 170,000 people as per the 2011 census and generates 30.09 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage.
The CAG said the utilisation of six sewerage treatment plants was only 4.8 MLD (13 percent) against the installed capacity of 35.63 MLD. Worn-out sewers and non-existence of a sewerage network are the main reasons for non-tapping of sewage.
It said the untreated sewage, which remained untapped, is left in the open, affecting the environment adversely.
Then, approximately 85-90 tonnes of garbage is generated in the city daily, of which only 70 tonnes is treated.
The CAG pointed out that 131,218 tonnes of garbage was generated during 2009-14 against which 124,100 tonnes was collected by the Shimla Municipal Corporation, resulting in short collection of 7,118 tonnes.
Only 104,025 tonnes of garbage was transported for treatment and the remaining 27,193 tonnes remained untreated.
The municipal corporation’s commissioner, in his reply to the CAG, spoke of limited means to transport the garbage, but admitted that the treatment plant was not utilized to its optimal capacity.
Treatment of solid waste is not effective and eco-friendly, the report said, adding: the unscientific disposal of the solid waste had an adverse impact on the environment and water bodies.
Shimla faces water scarcity in both summer and winter.
Official sources said the normal demand is 42 million litres per day, but the availability ranged from 35 million to 37 million MLD.
The CAG report says the city is getting water only for 1.2 hours a day against the 24-hour norm.
Even the water supplied is less than the prescribed limit of 135 litres per capita per day. From 2009-14, the corporation had supplied 110 litres per capita per day.
Moreover, the quality of water supplied could not be certified in the absence of an independent analyst.
“During the summer (from May to June), we are getting water supply once in two or three days, and that too only in the morning,” Gian Thakur, a retired government employee who has been long settled in Shimla, told IANS.
He said the water shortage problem began in the early 1990s.
The state capital remains chock-a-block with vehicles owing to shortage of parking lots, especially during the peak tourist seasons — from May to June and November to January.
The government auditor said as of March 2014, there were 20 parking lots with a capacity of 585 vehicles, including 485 four-wheelers.
According to tourism industry representatives, Shimla gets 20,000 to 30,000 tourists on an average every weekend during the peak season.
The Urban Development Department said that to check traffic jams, the department plans to carve out 49 parking lots that can accommodate over 2,000 vehicles.
He said four parking slots, which can hold 1,524 vehicles, are in the final stage of completion, while a Rs.26 crore multi-level parking complex at Sanjauli in Shimla was inaugurated April 9.(IANS)
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com )