The Guardian

'Washing is a privilege': life on the frontline of India's water crisis

By 2030 the nation will have access to half the water it needs. The city of Shimla has already run out
India is undergoing the worst water crisis in its history, a government thinktank has warned, and the taps are running dry in Shimla. Photograph: saiko3p/Getty Images

Wash your clothes, or flush the toilet? Until last month, Ranjana Sharma had never considered the question. Then she arrived home one night to find her sister filling buckets.

The hot season has occasionally caused brief water shortages in Shimla, the former summer capital of the British Raj. But for an unprecedented 15 days in May and June, most taps in the Indian Himalayan town ran completely dry.

Public toilets were padlocked; families used disposable cutlery and threw it away; water trucks rolled in offering to fill tanks – at a steep mark-up; and people queued for hours to receive two buckets from a government supply.

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