Have you ever felt a little cocky while carrying that beautifully-shaped ‘mineral’ water bottle as you walked into a crowd? May be you have, or maybe not. For so many of us, sipping water from an expensive brand has become the way of life. We feel “oh-so-health-conscious” while paying that Rs20-50 for a litre of water that we start to treat tap water with great disdain.
But life was not always like this. In our childhood, we would rush home in the summer and gulp down water from the running taps. Our mothers would cook with the same water provided by the municipalities; the water would smell of chlorine for sure, but I hardly remember ever getting sick for drinking tap water.
Then why are we now so paranoid to gulp down a glass of water right from the tap. Looking back, we realize that ‘mineral water’ bottle companies slowly pushed in the paranoia of getting sick after ingesting water from ordinary source.
Playing on this very fear, multinationals like PepsiCo, the Coca-Cola Company and Nestle rake in combined annual sales of $110 billion, selling bottled water worldwide. MNCs across the world have spent millions on marketing to convince us that tap water tastes bad, contains high levels of contaminants and puts us in health hazard. But the costly bottles that the beverage industry sells are just the same, well, in most cases.
The bottled water industry is just another example of giant corporations tricking us into thinking their products are better. Tap water facilities add a small amount of chlorine to water, which makes the water taste a little funny but it keeps harmful bacteria away.
It’s interesting how so many eateries these days keep bottled water ready on their tables. It seems natural that their customers will ask for it, and they too make some quick bucks. Quite often, a check in the content on the label can make us realize it’s better to ask for regular water in those pricey restaurants, where they provide RO water anyway.
While some companies actually provide water from natural springs, most of companies sell the same tap water albeit filtered, at a high price. They fleece us for providing the same water that we get for free. A Pepsi VP once said, “Tap water is the enemy… When we’re done, tap water will be relegated to irrigation and washing dishes.”
There is no regulation in India stipulating that the location of the bottled water industry must be within a clean zone. Bottling plants are located in industrial estates, or in the midst of fields. Most companies use borewells to pump water from the ground.
However there’s a check on India’s bottled water industry. Any company willing to set up a water bottling plant needs to clear a licensing procedure. It’s mandatory for the unit to have in-house testing laboratories, conduct daily bacteriological analysis, resources to check toxins in the water. Also there are surprise inspections that checks samples drawn from both the factory and the market.
There is another menace: the plastic bottles. Although they are recyclable, it usually lands in the landfills, suffocating the earth, and expanding the pollution. Since various parts of India are prone to water-borne disease, it’s better to refill bottles from community water sources.