Water contamination, at source has become a major cause of water borne diseases in developing countries. Adding to the woes is the fact that household water storage is such that it can lead to more contamination. In fact the Union Minister for Consumer Affairs Ram Vilas Paswan on Tuesday asserted that water supplied by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) is not safe for consumption. In fact the Minister categorically said that the standards for potable water need to be defined, followed and managed under FSSAI as the prescribed quality standards are not being met by DJB. Presently FSSAI does not have the standards on water for different uses and it is only the BIS which makes the standards on water in India.
Water is a commodity that is used by everyone and all consumers have the right to safe drinking water. The World Bank estimates 21% of communicable diseases in India are water related and chief among these is diarrhoea. Speaking at the meeting of the Central Consumer Protection Council (CCPC) Ram Vilas Paswan said that the Municipal Corporation of Delhi is responsible for setting the quality standards of drinking water but since they have been unable to maintain the standards it must be brought under the ambit of the FSSAI. He also went on to say consumers must file complaints if they find that water is being sold above maximum retail price at places such as five star hotels, cinemas and airports in order to take strict actions against retailers. Minister said “Grahak Suvidha Kendras” set up by his Ministry were being directed to take up consumer complaints with the sector regulators or consumer courts on behalf of consumers.
Consumers can be sure of safe drinking water if it undergoes testing for contaminants on a regular basis. Water can get contaminated with disease causing bacteria, nitrates, lead and pesticides. According to a report in ‘Lead Action News,’ thirty three percent of the 370 samples of water from the top 26 cities of India tested positive for harmful content of lead. Out of these about 13 percent failed to meet the WHO standards of lead content at less than 10 ppb (parts per billion), while 2% of the samples did not meet even the Indian standards of 50 ppb. The reason for high content of lead in municipal supplied water is the PVC pipes which leach lead into water.
Some of the water that we drink can be contaminated because of poor sewage management and pathogens like bacteria, parasites and virus then spread diseases like cholera, jaundice, typhoid, etc. However, chemical contamination can occur in water due to natural processes. Therefore arsenic, fluoride, chlorine, iodine and nitrates find their way into drinking water. All these chemicals become toxic if they are found at high levels and may cause a number of health problems like cancer. Therefor water standards have prescribed limits to the presence of these chemicals. Water becomes contaminated with nitrates when pesticides, fertilizers and even manure are used as these seep into ground water.
FSSAI might not have specific standards for water presently, but they have clearly indicated that a water test report (as per BIS requirements) from an NABL accredited testing laboratory is one of the documents required to be submitted by food manufacturers when applying for a food license. The water report must conform to the standards prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards for potable water. BIS has proscribed the standards on water like for Drinking Water Testing – IS 10500, Packaged Drinking Water Testing – IS 14543, Packaged Natural Mineral Water Testing – IS 15485, Water for Food Processing Industry – IS 4251, Borewell Water Testing – IS 10500.