Manufacturers said water supply shortage would come down to 10% over next 2-3 days

At a time when the city is reeling under a water crisis, the reopening of many packaged drinking water units around Chennai is expected to significantly reduce the shortage in supply in the next few days.

Two weeks ago, 92 of the 309 private units manufacturing packaged drinking water were directed to be closed for not having valid licence to operate. Water samples from 51 of these units were then found to be satisfactory.

Ahamed Kasim, regional manager, Repute Water, one of the firms that will reopen soon, said that it would take 48 hours for the product to reach the market after the unit is reopened. “We already have food and safety licences and will soon apply to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) for its consent. We are very happy about the order,” he said.

A. Shakespeare, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers Association, said that the shortage in private water supply would reduce to 10 per cent from the current 30-40 per cent once the units begin functioning and distributing in the next two or three days.

The cost of 20-litre bubbletops, which went up by a minimum of Rs. 5 last week, is also set to come down. “But, there may be a marked dip only after all units start operations,” he said. Every year, about 50-100 units are opened to meet the growing water demand in the metropolitan area.

M. Gunasekaran, who runs a unit in Red Hills, said that he was confident that his unit would be allowed to operate as the water conformed to quality standards. “I produce 600 bubble tops and 50-100 water sachets every day under two brands ‘Real Fresh’ and ‘Bio Fresh’. I am planning to discuss the issue with association members before applying for the license issued by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. It also depends on the norms laid down by the TNPCB.”

Officials of the Bureau of Indian Standards, southern region, said that consumers could be assured of the quality of the water supplied to them. BIS would check the quality of the finished product and the hygiene practices of the units. TNPCB’s requisites for a license mainly have to do with aspects dealing with pollution. “We test the water samples for nearly 82 parameters, including pesticidal residue,” said a BIS official.

Sources in Commissionerate of Food Safety and Drug Administration said that water sachets without BIS certification were being destroyed all over the State. “We are issuing notices warning the manufacturers to apply for certification. Similarly cool drinks that have imitated popular brands are also being destroyed. Some time ago, we had issued notices to five drinking water units near Chennai asking them to close down. Those have been closed down by the TNPCB,” he said.

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