It is not long ago that the Dhakites realised the danger of drinking water supplied by the Water and Sewerage authority (WASA) directly. On realisation of this, the majority started boiling water before drinking. Others collected water from tube-wells for drinking purposes. Then people became even more conscious about ensuring that the drinking water was safe. They started getting their boiled water filtered. The device for filtration is light and cheap. Traders started importing such filters in all shapes and sizes from Taiwan, China, South Korea and, as they claim, Japan.
However, the filter is not trouble-free. It needs a thorough cleaning at least twice or more a month depending on the extent of service it is put to. In order to avoid some of the troubles, the Unilever has come up with a filter called 'Pure it' with the slogan, 'Purer than boiled water'. Its advantage is that no boiled water is required. Further, it works without electricity and gas. All one needs is to replace the germ kit after a certain period when the filter gets automatically shut. It is indicated by a red mark.
Those who can afford, go for reverse osmosis (RO) filter. This is connected with a water supply source and does not require pouring water manually like the 'Pure it'. But the cost at the range of Tk 20,000 per unit is not affordable for many. Both 'Pure it' and reverse osmosis brands of many sources still need replacement of kits that actually work as the core filter instrument. They need replacement by six months to one year.
There are other devices that hospitals or hotels use but none is completely trouble-free yet. However, all these are dependable enough.
In this context, how do the commercial types of water purification systems fare? The latest tests carried out by the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) following a High Court directive, may shed some light on the quality of water bottling and jar companies are serving. The BSTI has cancelled licences of three brands of bottled and jar water and suspended operation of seven other companies. The measure was taken because the water they supply was unsafe.
This is a follow-up of the earlier BSTI drive that found 40 per cent plastic bottles and water jars in Dhaka containing microorganisms. What is notable here is that the defaulting companies were all licence holders because the BSTI focused on the 175 companies which obtained licences. But intriguingly, more than 300 companies are engaged in water business here.
What results tests on water supplied by the unlicensed companies will yield is anybody's guess. The BSTI has destroyed 26,000 water jars because they were unsafe. What about the jars supplied by the ubiquitous local suppliers to restaurants and hotels? Often the mobile court conducts drives against such unlicensed entities doing the business clandestinely. It was even found that a large number of such suppliers just fill their jars with tap water without any treatment whatsoever. In fact, some of those have no treatment plant and still others do not bother to run their machines lest it will cost them higher electric bills.
This is how the quality of potable water is compromised on many fronts of commercial water business. The customers are taken for a ride by dishonest traders. Issuance of licences does not ensure standardisation of any commodity unless the products are subjected to rigorous test and monitoring from time to time. In a country where quality of life of the majority is not at an enviable level, there is no alternative to such monitoring. Whether it is water or milk or any other food, the regulations have to be strictly maintained and enforced in the interest of the nation's health. The country's elevation to the middle-income status will demand higher scores on this issue.
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