Bus commuters will soon get to quench their thirst for Rs. 10, with work on the first Amma mineral water plant expected to be completed in the coming days. The unit is expected to start functioning on September 15.
The first of ten planned units in the State, it will have a daily capacity of three lakh litres. The water will be packaged in one-litre bottles that will be sold on long-distance government buses, in bus termini across the State as well as motels.
Manufacturers of packaged drinking water units have welcomed the initiative, stating it would benefit commuters who at present shell out up to Rs. 20-Rs. 25 for one-litre bottles sold under major brands. Those manufactured by small-scale units are sold for Rs. 15.
The transport department will be running the plant that is being set up on a 55-acre piece of land belonging to the Institute of Road Transport (IRT) in Gummidipoondi. Sources said staff of Rail Neer, the Indian railway’s packaged drinking water, will provide training over three months for the transport department staff who will run the unit.
In June, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had announced that she had directed the State Transport Corporations to set up Amma mineral water plants across Tamil Nadu. She had said the equipment for the plants would be procured by the IRT.
“We have set up the best machinery. There are around 1.24 lakh transport employees in the State and 30 of them will be trained in operation and distribution,” said an official.
The water is expected to be of a high quality with the total dissolved solids (TDS) reported to be below 50 parts per million (ppm) as compared to a minimum of 150 ppm in water from lakes and rainwater. “The water source is in Gummidipoondi. Even the waste water after production will have TDS lesser than 500 ppm,” said the official.
Of the one crore litres of packaged drinking water supplied in the city daily, bottled water accounts for 15-20 lakh litres. The production of bottled water by large players constitutes nearly 75 per cent of the total production.
A. Shakespeare, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers Association, said the production cost of bottled water was Rs. 6 and retailers were provided for a cost of Rs. 10. This includes a value added tax of 14.5 per cent. The government’s move would bring down the market price, he added.
Transport department employees too have lauded the move, with vice-president of Tamil Nadu State Transport Employees Federation A.P. Anbazhagan stating it would benefit injured and retired transport staff if they were employed in these units.