Water supply will not be hit by protest action but quality may suffer

Members of the Tamil Nadu Packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers Association (TNPDWA) plan to surrender their ISI licences given by the Bureau of Indian Standards on September 6, protesting the failure to close unlicensed units selling ‘flavoured’ water. However, packaged water will continue to be supplied across the State but without the quality checks that go with the ISI certification.

Out of the 870 TNPDWA members participating in this protest, 310 operate in and around Chennai. Five crore litres of packaged drinking water are supplied across the State daily, and Chennai accounts for nearly half of it. TNPDWA patron V. Murali said the supply of packaged drinking water would continue even after the surrender of licences.

Association members said they were taking this step because around 1,000 units offering ‘herbal’ or ‘flavoured’ water continued to operate across the State, despite the National Green Tribunal’s directive in July restricting their functioning. “We have also obtained licence from Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. But the units that sell herbal water function without any licence,” Mr. Murali said. TNPDWA general secretary A. Shakespeare said these herbal water units were not monitored by any regulatory authority. Unlike packaged water units which had to test samples on a daily and monthly basis and were also subjected to surprise checks, ‘herbal water’ units functioned without having to worry about quality checks, he said.

The Association members also complained that licensed packaged drinking water units were affected by the order to get licences from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. However, the Board had declined licenses citing ongoing court cases pertaining to groundwater extraction.

TNPDWA president K. Rajaram said they were not a polluting industry and hence licence from the TNPCB was not required.