Poor quality and erratic Metrowater supply add to woes of residents as bottled water supply is hit
For thousands of residents who depend on ‘mineral water’ for cooking and drinking, the protest by packaged drinking water manufacturers has come as a shock.
Over the past few days, many city residents have been bluntly refused canned water supply by local distributors.
“My water supplier told me manufacturers are on strike. We cannot depend on Metrowater for drinking water. The supply is erratic. I have undergone a heart surgery and cannot use anything but safe water,” said Sriram Prasad, a senior citizen on Mahalakshmi Street in T. Nagar.
Metrowater found lacking
The poor quality of Metrowater is another reason residents turn to bottled water. Jothi. R, a resident of Thirumangalam, said water pumped in the sump of her house is ash-coloured.
“I sometimes find snails in the water. We cleaned the sump on Thursday and removed a huge mound of black slush. We let the water stay overnight before drawing it up to the overhead tank. Otherwise, our pipeline gets clogged,” she said.
According to the Tamil Nadu Packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers Association, there are 309 manufacturers in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts. Of them, at least 303 have BIS certification and trade licences from the respective local bodies.
“Two years ago, while hearing a case, the Madras High Court directed the State government to not allow commercial entities to draw groundwater for commercial purposes until the Groundwater (Development and Management) Act, 2003, was notified. The Act is yet to be notified. When a couple of manufacturers wrote to the Central Ground Water Board, they cited this case and declined permission to draw water,” said V. Murali, founder-patron of the Association.
Despite this, many bottled water units continue to operate and are popular with city residents. Karunakaran, a resident of Poonamallee, said they had no issues with the quality of water.
“We have been using a particular brand since the past two years and have had no health problems. In fact, if we visit the bottling plant, we can buy bubbletop cans for as less as Rs. 10,” he said.
MNC brands to fill in?
To combat the lack of supply, some dealers are offering bubbletop containers of MNCs to regular customers.
“I have enough water for three more days but after that I will have to shell out more to purchase cans of MNC brands. We cannot afford to install an RO unit and have to depend on cans,” said Mythili, a homemaker from Karapakkam.
Manufacturers said they have no other option.
“Though we know the public will be inconvenienced, we have no choice but to stop production and packaging. We are not polluting industries and want separate rules to govern packaged drinking water, which is an essential service,” said K. Rajaram, president of the Association.
The Association has urged the State government to take action against illegal water units that operate without BIS license and other mandatory certification.
It has also requested the government to not include manufacturing units under the ambit of the pollution control board as they are not polluting industries.