Bottled-water, which until a few years ago, was regarded a luxury is now a common sight in Nepali households, thanks to heightening shortage of potable water. However, the fast growing bottled-water industry is highly unregulated as studies have showed that one-fourth of the bottled water distributed in the market is contaminated.
Pramod Koirala, senior food research officer at Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC), said as much as 25 percent of bottled-water companies based in the Kathmandu Valley have been flouting the standards set by the department.
“We tested samples of bottled-waster distributed by 37 companies in the last four months and found that the products of 10 companies were contaminated,” Koirala said, adding, “This shows that the companies are flouting the standard set by the government.”
DFTQC has filed cases against the 10 companies at concerned district administration offices, Koirala said.
The mushrooming of bottled-water companies in every nook and corner of the Valley has not only made it difficult for consumers to differentiate between clean and contaminated bottled-water but also has created fertile ground for unhealthy competition.
Koirala said small-scale companies with little investment and no technical expertise are making things worse, as they are the ones that bottle contaminated water.
The study report prepared by DFTQC states that most of the companies bottle water brought from nearby water sources with negligible or no chemical treatment.
The Valley consumes a total of 900,000 liters of bottled-water in a day, according to Nepal Bottled-water Industries Association (NBWIA).
Though the question on cleanliness and hygiene of bottled-water is doing rounds, bottled-water companies are cashing on the water shortage and selling thousands of liters of bottled-water everyday. The price of water jars (with 20 liters capacity) varies from as low as Rs 35 [US$ 0.46] to as high as Rs 80 [US$ 1.06] per jar.
“It is the unmanaged growth and growing competition among bottled-water companies that has been inviting unhealthy competition in this industry,” Rabin Shrestha, general manager of Aqua 100 – one of the leading bottled-water brands – told myrepublica.com. “Unless and until a perfect inspecting mechanism is put in place, the companies will continue to cheat consumers.”
Shrestha said consumers should be aware of the fact that bottled-water does not necessarily mean that the water is pure and hygienic.
About 300 bottled-water companies are registered with various government agencies, including Nepal Food Corporation and Department of Commerce. The industry directly employs more than 6,000 persons, according to Nepal Bottled-water Industries Association.
“Apart from these registered companies, numerous other companies are operating illegally,” Nabin Kumar Karki of Nepal Bottled-water Industries Association said.
Source: Republica, 10 Jul 2010