Canned water under threat

Authorities accuse a few packaged water units of flouting norms to draw groundwater; manufacturers flag clearance certificates.
Canned water under threat


Though the Tamil Nadu packaged drinking water manufacturers have withdrawn their strike, authorities are said to be at loggerheads with them over depleting groundwater level, putting the availability of canned drinking water in question in the long run.
While the association members say that a total of 350 packaged drinking water manufacturing units operate in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts, sources claim that around 200 illegal units are also run by people with political clout. However, V Murali, president of Greater Tamil Nadu Packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers Association, told DTNext that all the units have obtained the environmental clearance apart from certificates from Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
“In such a condition, why should the concerned officials pressurise us to close the units. Lakhs of people rely on canned water not only in the city, but across the state. Is curbing the availablity of a life essential to save groundwater level justified?” he asks. While the officials claim that they have only instructed some units that overexploit groundwater and flout the norms to abide by, the association members accuse officials of being discriminatory and claim that they are being threatened to shut down the units without a valid reason.
According to Murali, manufacturers draw water of about 300 million litres a day from 350 units in Chennai region. “Though we have necessary licences from all the departments, sometimes the officials try to close down units for reasons best known to them,” he says. However, Shankar, Chief Engineer of Ground and Surface Water Resources Wing, justifies the department’s action.
“There are some norms, which the drinking water manufactureres do not conform to. We have been periodically instructing such units not to overexploit groundwater beyond prescribed levels and it is monitored through a water meter. But some companies flout the rules and we along with Revenue officials insist the manufacturers to close such units,” he elaborates. He also adds that the PWD is preparing to monitor the units in Chennai region and would ask the manufacturers without a licence not to tap water anymore. 
Shankar says the groundwater level can be maintained if such units located near lakes and rivers without licences are closed. R Kathiravan, Designated Officer, FSSAI, Chennai, says that there are 17 packaged water manufacturing units in the city alone. “We regularly monitor them and if we find the water to be unfit for consumption, we  immediately ask the manufacturers to stop processing. After tapping the water, the manufacturers should do the purification process promptly. Some companies would not maintain the equipment properly and in such a scenario there is a possibility for water contamination. So, the manufacturers should be careful during the entire process of purification,” he says. 
Kathiravan adds that regular inspections are conducted to check potability of canned water.
7 to 10 lakh  cans of water are supplied to Chennai households on a daily basis
Total number of units in Chennai region: 350
50% of drawn water goes waste in the purification
No of illegal unit: 200

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