Specail Report by: Alfie, Team Mangalorean
When you go to a restaurant or any sit-down food shack, you might have heard this , " Do you prefer bottled water or regular tap water?". And most of the time we prefer bottled water assuming that it is safe and clean. But where is the assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle, it is any cleaner or safer than City tap water. Chances are that the bottled water could be simple tap water, but in a bottle!! With bottled water, you don't know what you're getting. We don't know where the water in the bottle came from, whether it is purified or lab tested bearing ISI standards, or it is merely bottled tap water. Just because you are ordering a branded name bottled water, doesn't mean it is real and safe. If people can duplicate many other items, why can't they fake bottled water too. And that's been happening lately, where many illegal water bottling manufacturers have been busted by the Government Food and Health Department.
Many people drink bottled water because they don't like or trust tap water or may be because of their trendy lifestyle or because the question is safety. This is like running around with a leak in your car tyre, topping it off every few hours or days rather than taking it to be patched. Only the very affluent can afford to switch their water consumption habits to bottled water. And also, bottled water is expensive, wasteful and contrary to popular belief-- not any healthier for you than tap water. In reality, bottled water is just water, I guess!
Just because bottled water have a branded name, and cost bit expensive, doesn't mean the water inside the bottle is pure and safe. It may contain disinfection byproducts, fertilizer residue and pain medication. The problem is, bottled water industry is not required to disclose the results of any contaminant testing that it conducts. Even in mega country like USA, many name branded bottled water companies have been cited by the government for violating safety standards, and have also found impurities in the packaged bottled water. One more thing about bottled water, there is no expiry date on the package label because if the bottle seal is tight, there is no chances of algae and bacteria growing in the sealed bottle. But once you open the seal , you have to consume or discard water within two weeks, if not there are chances bacteria growing in it.
According to sources there are nearly 55,000 water bottling companies in India that are illegally extracting water from the groundwater table for production and packing. But still our government has done nothing to stop these companies from continuing their illegal production of unsafe bottled water. According to the Article 13(a) of the constitution and the Supreme Court ruling in October 2009, no company can extract water and commercialize it without proper safety guidelines. The core of the problem lies in the fact that there are no laws governing companies aiming at producing bottled water. And with these illegal water bottling companies still† continuing on their money making business, they are putting consumers lives in danger.
Even in Karnataka there are over 5000 illegal water bottling companies, and only 180 legal ones. It is also noted that Karnataka has a market of Rs. 100 crore in the unorganized packaged water system. Last month, the Karnataka High Court directed the State government to crack down on unlicensed packaged water manufacturers, who don't follow safety norms. This is in the face of controversy over depleting ground water level across the state and districts, and high concentration of pesticides in bottled water. It was found that about 99 percent of the mineral water sold in bottles had high level of pesticide residues and were not complying with the ISI standards. Either these companies are fooling a popular brand or selling water without the ISI certification. Seems like the ' ISI ' mark of quality issued by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for bottled water is losing its relevance.
There have been cases where people have found unwanted residues and objects, peculiar taste etc; etc; in bottled water, including foul smell emanating from bottled water. In some samples of bottled water it was found bacteria or chemicals in high levels that were considered unsafe because they might cause cancer or other illness. The detection of significant levels of pesticide residue in bottled water has shocked the common public all over India, and also in Karnataka. Yes, it is hard to trust bottled water any more, because of all these illegal companies faking up and who are marketing bottled water filled with impurities which are harmful for humans. Following is the news report I just read in the media pertaining to illegal bottling companies operating in Mandya District and who were raided by government officials---
On July 18, 2012, Government Inspectors from the Food, Safety and Quality Department conducted a raid on illegal bottle water manufacturing companies in Mandya District, who were operating without ISI certification and other food regulations.The inspectors had decided to raid R P Dambal and company in Somanahalli in Maddur taluk and Tanu Enterprises in Gejjalagere. However, with both the units having downed their shutters, the inspectors had to return empty-handed. Both these units have to obtain BIS certificates. The units had failed to respond to the notices following which the authorities decided to conduct the raid. Legal action against these illegal units involved in packaging drinking water will be taken soon, and also these units will be needed to equipped with a laboratory and personnel. While returning from these units, authorities stopped a vehicle transporting drinking water and they seized the vehicle as it didnít have the necessary documents. It is also noted in the report that Mandya district has 14 packaged drinking water units, of which only four are authorised.
So, now the question arises, how about the water bottling companies in other districts, not to forget our own Dakshina Kannada district. In order to safeguard the health of the people in and around our district, bottled drinking water must meet certain quality standards--the main issues involved in packaged bottled water are water quality management, surveillance, and control mechanisms. But does any one knows whether these qualities are met by these water bottling companies around our area ? Does any one cares? I think the government and the City health department officials should go around and inspect some of the bottled water brands for originality and find out the real truth behind these water bottling industry. Because you never know--the branded 'Bisleri' or 'AquaFina' water may not be real, it could have been duplicated by unauthorized illegal water bottling companies. And if the Quality and food inspecting officials make a thorough investigation into some of the bottled water sold in town or in the District, I bet they will find quite a few illegal bottled water brands or the bottled water is either infected with pesticides or other impurities.
So did my article on health hazards of bottled water scare you ? Don't panic ! I think you can survive by not living only on bottled water. Avoid drinking bottled water, where it also has large environmental and economical costs associated with plastic bottles and transport,. Why spend money on bottled water when the chances are they could be of bad quality or could have impurities harmful to your body ? So until you are sure and positive what you are paying for what you are buying,† is a legal and safe bottled water, this is what you can do ? Buy a stainless steel thermos, fill it with chilled or regular water and use it. Don't like the way your tap water tastes, use inexpensive carbon filters that will turn most tap water into sparkling fresh water at a fraction of bottled water cost. Until then, Bottoms Up !