Bottled water consumption has gained popularity in the country over the past decade or so. This is because most people from all walks of life seem to consider these as 'safe and healthy' against tap water.
Recent news that five companies, which are allowed to sell water in bottles and jars, provide unhygienic and undrinkable water to consumers must have disappointed most of these consumers living in the urban and rural parts of the country. The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) revealed this in a report recently submitted to a Dhaka court. The five brands include: Fruits Flavours Ltd's 'Yummy Yummy', Sinha Bangladesh Trades Limited's 'Aqua Mineral', Crystal Food and Beverage's 'CFB', Orotech Trade and Technology's 'Osma' and Sree Kundeshari Pharmacy Ltd's 'SINMIN'. This latest incident once again proves how dangerous bottled and jar water are.
Under the instruction of the High Court (HC), the BSTI provided the report after testing water bottles and jars from 15 companies. Prior to this, the media have been writing about the dangers of water being sold in bottles and jars for quite some time. But those 'alarm bells' seemed to be falling on deaf ears of the concerned authorities as some companies continued to market contaminated water in bottles and jars across the country despite allegations brought against them.
Safe water is now-a-days a rare commodity especially in the cities as the supply system is not properly taken care of. A recent study has showed that about 97 per cent of the so-called filtered water jars supplied to households, shops and offices in and around the capital contain coliform bacteria and pathogens from human and animal faeces.
These findings are not new. In the past, a group of researchers from Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) had found coliform bacteria while studying the level of minerals in jars and bottled water in the city. According to experts, drinkable water should contain zero level of these harmful bacteria. Unfortunately the water supplied in jars contained an abnormally high level of such bacteria.
It is believed that following consumption of such water, the city has been witnessing various diseases among citizens. It has been observed that prolonged consumption of such foul water leads to loss of immunity, long-term diarrhoea, headache, fever and cold, nausea, stomach ache, destruction of blood platelets, anaemia and kidney failure.
A mobile court led by BSTI found six business entities guilty of supplying water jars without licence from the BSTI. While conducting drives in the city's Saidabad, north Jatrabari, Demra, Mir Hajirbagh and Shyampur areas, the mobile court found the six factories producing filtered water without BSTI's approval. The team instantly sealed off the factories and destroyed the water jars. The team also raided different hotels and shops in the areas and destroyed 1,200 water jars.
It is apprehended that if the supply of such contaminated bottled water is not stopped immediately, the occurrence of diseases in households are going to increase. As the water is bottled indiscriminately without channelling it through filtration or decontamination processes, the germs remain in the water. Bottled water companies are not even following BSTI standards. In most cases, the water supplied in bottles or jars do not have minerals in them. Under the circumstances, public awareness needs to be generated about the brands selling contaminated water.
The Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperative Ministry claims that the country's 87 per cent or a total of 139.2 million people out of 160 million are under the coverage of safe drinking water now. It is not clear whether the ministry is considering the contaminated bottled water being consumed by millions of people across the country.
Prof. Sarwar Md Saifullah Khaled is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre.
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