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REGULATING BUSINESS OF DRINKING WATER
Monday, 01 July, 2013, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
P A Francis
Bottling and selling drinking water has grown into a big business in India over the last 15 years with steadily rising demand from country's thousands of urban and semi urban centres. Lifestyle changes of the people have substantially contributed to this growing demand for this commodity. The industry is currently growing at the rate of 19 percent and could reach a turnover of Rs.10,000 crores by the end of this year according to an industry estimate. There are over 100 brands.of bottled water marketed in the country although the best known brand is still the Bisleri. As the demand for packaged drinking water is growing fast and established brands are not available everywhere, many small and unauthorised packaged drinking water units have mushroomed many parts of the country. As bottling and selling of water is not a very high tech and capital intensive business, setting up a plant is not very difficult for these operators. Many of these small time entrepreneurs do not ensure quality of water as they do not have proper bottling facilities approved by Bureau of Indian standards. There are many sub standard packaged drinking water brands sold in the market today. Mostly 20-litre bottles and mini-pouches are found to be containing substandard or contaminated water. And there were several complaints about the quality of packaged drinking water. As the ground water is the main source for most bottling plants, the process from purifying to bottling is the main factor that determines the quality and this differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. There are already standards set by BIS for the packaged water and also set limits for chemicals and heavy metals in addition to other norms. But, there has been no enforcement action on these plants from the part of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India as yet. The Union health minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, had to ask the FSSAI early this month to check the bottling plants and sources of the water. Now, FSSAI reported to have commenced testing of samples of water from different sources across India for various microbiological and chemical components. That is a good begining. But, inspection of premises of bottling plants and testing of their samples have to be a regular activity of FSSAI inspectors to ensure safe drinking water to the public.
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