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Green, Cool...But Parched
Say goodbye to Kasauli as a tourist destination. Arguably the least spoilt hill station in the country and easily the most accessible—five hours by car from Delhi—it's facing an acute water crisis. Residents have been getting a trickle for an hour or so a day, and sometimes none for two days. "Soon we will have to use mineral water to wash our bottoms," was one comment, said only half-jokingly. Commercial establishments have had to resort to costly tanker water and some residents have decided to leave Kasauli until the situation improves. Recently, an unprecedented protest took place in the main bazaar. The protesters' anger was directed at the military establishment who monopolise the water supply and seem to have no shortage of it—even for their gardens. A rather defensive Brigadier Arjun Menon, the commandant of the Kasauli cantonment and, in effect, its first citizen, explains that the water shortage is mainly due to inadequate snowfall last winter and failure of the winter rains: the melting snow and rain should have filled up the reservoirs for May and June. The environmental lobby puts the blame mainly on the huge amount of construction that has taken place in Kasauli, outside the cantonment limits. Construction requires water, large quantities of it. And there is precious little of it in and around Kasauli. Water harvesting is one solution, though a limited one. The Himachal authorities need to look urgently for other sources of water. Not just for Kasauli but for other hill stations in the state as well.