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Shimla: Endless traffic jams and water scarcity add to the woes of the residents and tourists

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Shimla: Shimla, that was once known as the Queen of Hills, is plagued by water scarcity, traffic chaos and haphazard construction. Driving in the city is nothing short of a nightmare and tests your patience. Pleasant weather, however, remains one of its prime attractions.

Umesh Ghrera, a journalist with a Chandigarh-based English daily, who was brought up in Shimla, described the problems of the hill destination, known for wooded deodars and Raj-style structures. Ghrera, who was holidaying with his family here, said the biggest issue in Shimla was the limited space for parking.

“You may be willing to shell out hundreds of rupees but may still not find parking space. It’s high time the government took some drastic steps to improve the situation. Or else Shimla will not be worth living in,” Ghrera told a media outlet.

Another tourist, Abhimanyu Sethi from Delhi, complained: “There is no water in the hotel. I have seen the first destination in the country where the hotel has rationed water supply.”

He said he was charged Rs.100 for an extra bucket of water provided by his hotel.

Locals say Shimla faces water scarcity in both summer and winter.

The latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General that highlights the inadequacies of the Shimla Municipal Corporation, says the city was 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, it said. From 2009-14, the corporation had supplied 110 litres per capita per day.

Official sources said the normal demand of the city is 42 million litres daily, but the availability ranged from 35-37 million litres.

Taking suo motu cognisance of media reports on water shortage, Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, directed the state government to file a status report and complete data on the actual amount of water supplied by it last month in Shimla.

It also sought to know the steps taken by the government to identify additional water sources so as to mitigate the problem of water shortage.

The court, which listed the matter for a June 29 hearing, observed that successive governments and municipal corporations had failed to mitigate the problem of water shortage, which now is a common feature round the year.

Irrigation and Public Health Minister, Vidya Stokes, said that ensuring round-the-clock supply of water to the people of Shimla was the top priority of the government.

Stokes told a media outlet that detailed project reports for a water supply scheme to Shimla from the Kol Dam near Tatapani, rehabilitation of water supply distribution system and rejuvenation of sewerage network, totaling up to Rs.643.05 crores had got technical clearance from the central government.

Planned for a maximum population of 16,000 during the British Raj, Shimla is now home to 170,000 people.

According to tourism industry representatives, Shimla gets 20,000-30,000 tourists on an average every weekend during the peak season — from May to June and November to January.

Urban Development Minister, Sudhir Sharma, said to check traffic jams, the department was constructing a 3.5 km ropeway, the first major ropeway project in the state capital.

Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh, laid the foundation stone of the Rs 200-crore ropeway project on June 23, that will link the new bus stand with Jodha Niwas above the Mall road.

Usha Breco Ltd, which will commission the project, said the ropeway would carry about 1,000 passengers in one-hour time and it was aiming to transport about 1.5 million passengers in a year.

The agreement between the government and the company was signed on the built-operate-and-transfer basis for 40 years.

Himachal Pradesh’s economy is highly dependent on tourism, besides hydroelectric power and horticulture. (IANS)

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)