National Green Tribunal asks pollution control board to analyse samples from 34 units again

Granting relief to 51 packaged drinking water units which met prescribed standards, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Southern Bench, on Monday said these units could carry on packaging and selling water in the city until further orders.

The NGT, taking note of a report in The Hindu, had directed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to look into allegations of packaged water units violating norms. The Board issued closure orders to 92 units in the city that lacked valid consent. The South India Packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers’ Association challenged the closure orders.

Later, the Tribunal asked the TNPCB and Commissionerate of Food Safety and Drug Administration to inspect the closed units and submit a report after analysing water samples. Those units remained closed till Monday.

When the matter came up for hearing, they filed a report stating that out of samples collected from 85 units, only 34 met the prescribed standards, while 17 samples were classified as substandard, but not unsafe. The remaining 34 did not meet the necessary parameters.

The Bench, comprising Justice M. Chockalingam and Prof. R. Nagendran, said there could be no impediment in allowing the 34 units that met the prescribed standards and 17 others that were not unsafe to carry on packaging and selling water as an interim measure until further orders. Regarding the remaining 34 units, the authorities were asked to redo the analysis of samples while they remained closed.

The Tamil Nadu Packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers’ Association filed another application seeking to implead itself in the case. It claimed that its 869 members held Certificates of Manufacturing Licence (CML) of the Bureau of Indian Standards and also from the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI Licence). The association said unless packaged drinking water was allowed to be manufactured by existing manufacturers, it would lead to severe shortage of safe drinking water. Its lawyer, C. Seethapathy, said TNPCB had issued show-cause notices to around 300 units and rejected their replies. It had started issuing closure notices.

Following this submission, the Bench passed another interim order allowing the association’s members to carry on packaging and selling water until further orders, while allowing the TNPCB to continue issuing show-cause notices to erring units.

The Tribunal ordered the TNPCB to file another report by July 2 regarding units that did not have valid consent orders or certificates of the Bureau of Indian Standards.

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