Forest department is all set for the formal launch of ‘Sabari Jalom’, State’s first and only bottled drinking water.

The mineral water project is part of a goodwill-cum-environment conservation scheme of the Forest Department at Sabarimala, aimed at minimising the alarming pet bottle menace in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, besides bringing solace to the Ayyappa devotees by facilitating safe drinking water during the annual pilgrim season.

Forest Minister Binoy Viswom will launch ‘Sabari Jalom’ at a function to be held at Pampa on the foothills of Sabarimala on November 25th afternoon.

Talking to The Hindu, Mr Viswom said Forest Department has obtained the mandatory clearance for commercial production and sale of packaged drinking water from Indian Standards Institute.

Bottled drinking water has already been defined as ‘food’ under Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act, 1954, as per a notification issued by the Union Health Ministry way back in March, 2001, making it mandatory for all packaged drinking water to sport the ISI mark.

The department has set up a drinking water bottling plant at Moozhickal near the Kuttikkayam Forest Station in the Periyar Tiger Reserve and started production there the other day, the Minister said.

According to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, T.M.Manoharan, as many as 1500 bottles of drinking water are produced at the Moozhickal plant on a daily basis and the department is planning to 1,00,000 bottles of `Sabari Jalom’ during the ongoing pilgrim season.

The Minister said the project envisaged sale of packaged drinking water at Sabarimala and on the traditional trekking paths during the Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrim season at a rate of Rs.15 per bottle.

The sale of ‘Sabari Jalom’ will be through various outlets of Eco-Development Committees (EDC). EDCs will also procure empty bottles at various points on the trekking path at a rate of one rupee per bottle, with a view to minimise the presence of pet bottles in the forest areas, he said.

He said a laboratory has also been set up to closely monitor the quality standards of the drinking water.

The water collected from a well on the banks of river Azhutha for bottling is subjected to a series of purification process that include ozonisation, chlorination and riverse osmosis, besides a three-stage filtering process, according to Mr. K.J.Verghese, Conservator of Forests and Mr. P.R.Suresh, Deputy Director (West division) of PTR.