In our country where water-borne diseases are assuming alarming proportions due to poor quality of tap water, the recent disclosure made by Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) in its quarterly report that high levels of arsenic have been found in the samples of 10 brands of bottled water should serve as eye-opener for the health authorities and the policy-makers.
The PCRWR’s report has also pointed out that, in addition to the samples of 10 brands of bottled
water in which high levels of arsenic have been found, the other samples also contained high levels of sodium and potassium.
Such a disturbing fact has proved that not only the have-nots who have no choice but to consume poor quality tap water being supplied to them but even the haves, who mostly depend on bottled water, are also not immune to the water-borne diseases which include gastroenteritis, diarrhea, typhoid and even hepatitis A and E.
The another disturbing aspect which the PCRWR officials highlighted in the report was that whenever factories marketing the so-called mineral water were identified and their names made public, they have made it a practice to close down their business temporarily, but re-appear shortly by changing names of their brands.
Though the PCRWR officials in their quarterly reports had been regularly declaring different brands of bottled water unsafe for drinking purpose, the number of such brands had been continuously increasing over the last several years, thereby giving an impression that the government organizations, responsible for ensuring quality of bottled water and regulating the factories producing bottled water have utterly failed in performing their duties at the cost of people’s health.
It seems as if the corruption has also become endemic in the organization responsible for regulating the bottled water industry.
At a time when, according to a rough estimate, 50 per cent population of the country do not have access to clean drinking water and there is a mushroom growth of factories selling substandard bottled water across the country, it becomes obligatory upon the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PS&QCA) in particular and the health authorities in general to devise a fool-proof mechanism aiming to bring the bottled water industry under a strict regulation to follow so that the people consuming bottled water remain safe from their insatiable thirst to make more and more financial gains.
Moreover, it is also obligatory upon the people at the helm of affairs to take drastic action against the officials who allow the production and marketing of sub-standard and unsafe brands of bottled water at the cost of public health after allegedly taking illegal gratification from the owners of such factories.