Hyderabad: All that is packaged is not pure.
Have doubts? The packaged drinking water in Hyderabad, the kind that comes in the bubble top containers, is the best example.
The 20 or 25-litre bubble containers have become quite ubiquitous, both in eateries and homes. But if Food Safety officials of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) are to be believed, there are not even 30 out of the 1000-plus water suppliers who have a valid license to operate, forget those adhering to hygiene and testing rules.
Packaged drinking water, as per rules has to be sourced from groundwater or other clean drinking water sources, treated and disinfected using methods including filtration, UV or ozone treatment or reverse osmosis and then packaged in bubble top containers for consumption.
That is not all. As per regulations, every water plant should mandatorily have a microbiology lab and a microbiologist to check the purity and filter water as per prescribed limits. Ironically, in most plants in Hyderabad, it is the manufacturer of the water plant who just filters the water and packs it before sale.
Food Safety officials say there is no foolproof mechanism to control illegal water plants which have been mushrooming across the city.
“We conduct inspections and check the quality of water and collect samples from plants with a valid license,” an official said, adding that the majority is however, on the other side, with the quality of the water supplied by them under a huge cloud of doubt.
Those who want to establish a water plant need to take permission from the Revenue Department for bore digging before securing clearance from the Ground Water Department.
The manufacturer then has to obtain certification for the establishment from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) along with a trade license from GHMC. Then they need to set up a lab and appoint a microbiologist.
It is the duty of manufacturers to ensure whether laboratories are fully equipped to perform necessary tests, including presence of total dissolved solids, chloride, sulphate, coliform bacteria and aerobic microbes apart from checking the raw water pump at the bore-well, pre-filter pumps, washing area and filling pumps and reverse osmosis membrane regularly.
According to food safety officials, manufacturers of packaged drinking water have to renew their certificate from BIS at a cost of Rs 2.5 lakh. This, it is believed, makes most of them take a back step and continue operating without the certificates.
“Food inspectors monitor the water plants only which have BIS certification. We have collected samples and booked a few cases in the past. However, there is no proper mechanism in place to tackle those who are functioning without BIS certification,” an official said.