The government is planning to issue licence to the water bottling and refining plants to discourage unregistered plants that are supplying unsafe drinking water, according to a senior government officer.
The government will also suggest the consumers to drink the bottled water of the licensed plants only, said director general of Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC) Jeevan Prabha Lama speaking at an interaction 'Safe Drinking water’, here today.
The government, though, is committed to promote safe bottled drinking water, there has been practical difficulties as the water bottling plants are using various tricks to cheat consumers.
The department has examined 79 bottled water samples in the fiscal year 2011-12 and found 52 samples contaminated either from fungi or coliform, harmful bacteria. "There is no improvement this year too," she said, adding that the department is being strict to the bottling plants.
The licence will be issued to the bottling plants that conduct regular lab tests and supply drinking water in strict monitoring, Lama added.
However, consumer rights activists have been demanding strong action against bottled drinking water plants that do not meet basic hygiene criteria like low coliform — calculated from Total Plate Count — pH value that should be between pH 6.5 and 9.5. "But the best pH value in drinking water is seven, when the affect of acidity and alkalinity are calculated," according to World Health Organisation (WHO).
"The same tankers are used to carry drinking water and other sanitary purposes," said general secretary of Citizen Justice Consumers' Forum Prakash Subedi. "How can they maintain quality?"
Industries that have invested with above Rs 50 million and Rs 5 million are selling bottled drinking water at the same price, he said, asking the department how it is possible to maintain quality.
Nepal Bottled Water Association has welcomed the plan of the department. "Unregistered water bottling plants have ruined the image of bottled waters," said president of association Dharma Nanda Shrestha.
Currently, around 200 registered and 250 unregistered water bottling plants are in operation in the country.
Public health experts, on the occasion, said unsafe drinking water is the major cause of disease among people living in the towns. "About 80 per cent to 90 per cent of city people suffer from water borne diseases," said Dr Mahesh Man Shrestha. "Controlling unsafe drinking water will not only help reduce public health risk but also saves million in medicines," he added.
Kathmandu needs about 350 million litres of water but the government supply is just 150 million litres. The supply also decreases to 80 million litres in the winter, forcing the Kathmanduites to depend on bottled drinking water as the government supply is just 30 per cent of the total demand.