New Delhi: For decades, Shimla has been one of the most preferred holiday destinations for people from across the country. Each year, hundreds escape the hustle and bustle of city life - especially during the summer months, to take cover in the cooler climes of Himachal Pradesh's capital. But now, the Queen of Hills - as it is popularly called - has fallen ill and perhaps all it needs is for tourists to steer away.
An appeal on social media websites asking tourists to stay away from Shimla this year has gained momentum in the last few days. The reason? Shimla has been reeling from water shortage for several years but the past few months have been far worse than ever before. Rare rainfall during previous monsoon months and much lower precipitation during the winter months has led to the already falling water supply to crumble. Local media reports highlight that residents are having to wait almost a week to get clean water into their homes. Tankers being arranged for hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions too are woefully less than what is required.
"Give Shimla some time to breathe and recover. There is a massive water crisis here. If you love Shimla, please don't visit," reads the message circulating on Facebook and WhatsApp.
With tourist influx more in the summer vacation months of May and June, pressure on resources always goes up during these times. This year though, it is an outright crisis. Several hoteliers have cancelled bookings and issued refunds to avoid the ire of tourists devoid of water. "The months of May and June are our brisk business months but this year, we just cannot cope with the shortage in water available," says Pankaj Ahuja who runs a BnB in a village close to Shimla. "We have had tankers supplying water in previous years but this year, even these are a rare sight. They are looking at keeping the supply up in VIP areas and to five-star hotels."
While authorities maintain that there is no preferential treatment, locals are lining up daily to collect clean water from tankers - when tankers are available - to meet their daily needs. It is learnt that the situation in villages around Shimla is even grimmer with people walking far and wide to fetch water. As such, while the tourism industry will take a massive hit, it is the state of the local population that is currently being given top priority.