Water shortage worsens as tourist influx peaks in Uttarakhand

With over 23 lakh tourists and pilgrims for Chardham yatra visiting Uttarakhand this summer season, water crisis in the state has worsened, say officials. The surge in tourist numbers has increased the water consumption, putting pressure on the limited water resources in the state.

DK Singh, general manager (incharge) of Uttarakhand Jal Sansthan in Garhwal region said a tourist coming to the state uses 40 liters of water per capita per day. “If they stay for more number of days then it gradually increases to 70 liters per capita per day. Locals are themselves struggling for water and due to summer the demand is higher than supply. Tourist influx adds to the problem,” said Singh.

As per official records, for cities the water consumption level is 135 liters per capita per day in the state. For rural areas, the consumption level is 70 liters per capita per day.

“Locals are already living with deficit and they are forced to live with the current supply as we cannot generate water sources. Taking into account the heavy tourist influx in places like Mussoorie, we conserve water during monsoon and winters in two balancing reservoirs built near Gun Hill,” said Singh.

Sushil Kumar Saini, executive engineer, Jal Sansthan, Mussoorie said that during the summer season demand for water becomes double the normal requirement. “We have a production capacity of 7.75 million liters per day (MLD) and the demand is for 14 MLD for the three summer months, especially with tourists coming in. Otherwise, without tourists the demand is only 7.85 MLD, which is barely 0.10MLD more,” said Saini. Over 1,90,030 tourists have visited Mussoorie this year since the starting of May.

In Nainital, with increase in water consumption during the peak tourist season, the district administration had to stop curtailing the daily withdrawal of water from Nainital lake. The administration decided to increase the water intake from the Himalayan Lake incrementally by half a million litres per day (MLD) after every 15 days during the peak season depending on the water requirement.

Santosh Upadhyay, executive engineer Jal Sansthan, Nainital, said given the increase in water consumption, they have increased the daily water intake from the lake from 8 MLD in April to 10.5 MLD now. “Roughly 2.5 million litres per day is being withdrawn from the lake now compared to April”, he said.

Arvind Gaur, district tourism officer Nainital said it was for the first time that Nainital was witnessing such an unprecedented rush of tourists, primarily due to the ongoing heat wave in North Indian plains. “Since May 20, around 3 to 4 lakh tourists have visited Nainital. The rush is so much that it has become difficult even to walk properly on the Mall Road”, he said

Tourists HT spoke to said they were aware of the water problems in Nainital due to the huge rush of tourists. “In our hotel, we had to pay separately for a bucket of hot water. The hotel staff said it was being done as there was limited water supply and they didn’t want guests to waste water”, said Dhrupad Rai, who had come from New Delhi.

Peter Smetacek, co-founder of Butterfly Research Centre, Bhimtal, said the basic problem for such increasing stress on natural resources of the Himalayan Hill stations is because of the flawed policy for tourism promotion in the state. “Instead of diversifying tourism across the geography of the state, tourism is being selectively promoted for some areas like Char Dham, Mussoorie or Nainital”, he said.

This year till now, 17,83,273 pilgrims have visited the Chardham Shrines since May 7 and 73,217 at the Sikh Shrine of Hemkund Sahib since it opened on June 1.

Smetacek said if they want to lessen the stress on fragile Himalayan hill stations, they will have to promote tourism away from these in villages with the promotion of home-stays. “That way there will be no stress on one particular tourist destination”, he said.

The changing demographics of the small Himalayan hill stations coupled with a huge influx of tourists has put stress on the lake. Last year the administration decided to curtail withdrawal of water from the Naini Lake to 8 million litres per day from the earlier 18 MLD. Experts have been repeatedly expressing serious concern over increasing stress and overexploitation of Nainital Lake, which is already under threat due to drying up of its source lake- Sukhatal.

First Published:
Jun 18, 2019 15:26 IST

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