18TH NOVEMBER, 2019
|RAJYA SABHA TELEVISION|
THE BIG PICTURE: DRINKING WATER: QUALITY AND CHALLANGES
Mumbai residents need not buy reverse osmosis (RO) water purifiers as a study by the Union Consumer Affairs Ministry has found samples of tap water collected from the financial capital compliant with the Indian standards for drinking water. However, other metro cities of Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai failed in almost 10 out of 11 quality parameters tested by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) which is under the aegis of the Consumer Affairs Ministry.
Similarly, samples drawn from 17 other state capitals were not as per the prescribed specifications for drinking water. Releasing the second phase study, Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said, “Out of 20 state capitals, all the 10 samples of piped water drawn from Mumbai were found to comply with all 11 parameters, while other cities are failing in one or more.” In the third phase, samples from the capital cities of northeastern states and from 100 smart cities will be tested and their results are expected by January 15, 2020.
Ideal standard for drinking water:
City water systems are normatively required to comply with the national standard for drinking water IS 10500:2012, but most obviously they feel no compulsion to do so.
On paper, the Indian standard has a plethora of quality requirements, including absence of viruses, parasites and microscopic organisms, and control over levels of toxic substances
Reasons for lower quality:
- Their lack of initiative could be attributed partly to the expanding footprint of packaged drinking water.
- In populous cities, coupled with the high dependence on groundwater in fast-growing urban clusters where State provision of piped water systems does not exist.
- But in practice, municipal water fails these tests due to the lack of accountability of the official agencies, and the absence of robust data in the public domain on quality testing.
- For testing the water quality, there is no any specialized agency. The water suppliers are responsible for testing the quality of water in each state.
- Mixing of surface water & ground water which led to Arsenic, fluoride contamination
- Pipeline not maintained, the leakage always led to contamination of the piped water.
- Generally in a metropolitan city, Water supply line & sewerage line running side by side so there is a chance of the germs seeping through in the piped water.
- Effort is on quantity of the supply of water, not the quality of the water. Water supply in more and more cities are being given to Jal Board, Jal Nigam, their organization is a monolithic one, they don’t have representation from Municipal corporation, administrative infrastructure is not enough to go into the networking of what is the last point, so they are more focused on bulk supply point.
- For too long, the response of water departments to the challenge has been to chlorinate the supply, as this removes pathogens, ignoring such aspects as appearance, smell and taste.
- The Central Ground Water Board estimates that nearly a fifth of the urban local bodies are already facing a water crisis due to excessive extraction, failed monsoons, and unplanned development.
Impact of the polluted water
- Harmful health impacts because of water borne diseases especially in children.
- Tourist inflow will decrease because of the low water, air quality.
- Plastic pollution as bottled water gives rise to plastic pollution
- Wasting of the resources because for 1 liter of RO or bottled water, many liters of water used.
- RO is expensive & deprived of nutrients.
- Data based support system which will publish water quality on the regular basis.
- Involvement of all citizens – sensitization & awareness.
- BSI standard should be mandatory for the water supplier. Making it legally binding on agencies to achieve standards and empowering consumers with rights is essential, because State governments would then take an integrated view of housing, water supply, sanitation and waste management.
- On the issue of regular testing, there is a case to entrust a separate agency with the task in each State, rather than relying on the same agency that provides water to also perform this function.
- Upgrade treatment plant as earlier killing bacterial waste was primary concern. Now dissolved solids content increased.
- New technology (ion exchange) & efficient water refining systems.
- Long distance supply of water must be avoided, it should be localized, and treatment plant should be localized.
- Contamination of Arsenic, Fluoride must be monitored strictly and their source of origin must be identified.