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Quality of water comes under scanner as ministry to make BIS mandatory

14,October, 2019


The quality of water distributed by municipalities in India has come under scanner as the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has made its intention clear to initiate a ‘Swachh Pani Abhiyan or Clean Water Mission.’ Under this programme, the ministry is planning to make Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) norms for drinking water mandatory to regulate its safety.
The ministry, in this regard, held a meeting in which officials of BIS, Delhi Jal Board (DJB), Ministry of Jal Shakti, Department of Consumer Affairs, and FSSAI, the apex food regulator, participated.
According to a ministry statement, the meeting was called to discuss the standards for drinking water, on which the BIS is already working. It was also felt that the standards must be made mandatory, though currently they were voluntary in nature.
Explaining the food regulator’s point of view, a senior official of FSSAI stated that since currently the drinking water supplied by municipalities does not come under the FSS Act, the authority cannot have much role to play. However, if there is an amendment to the Act, the FSSAI would be in a better position to enforce and see compliance.
It is pertinent to mention here that BIS norms are voluntary while the enforcement of standards for food products rests with the FSSAI. Officials say that at the moment it is unclear whether the government would go for an amendment.
Meanwhile, BIS officials informed during the meeting that they had collected water samples from 11 places from Delhi region and tested them on 42 parameters such as pH level, odour, metal content, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and all samples failed to meet the BIS norms on multiple parameters.
Ram Vilas Paswan, Union minister for consumers affairs, stated that BIS has been directed to collect samples from state capitals and compile the results by November 2019 itself. The process of collecting samples from state capitals including Delhi has already begun. BIS will be conducting a test of all the water samples for which teams have been deployed.
Paswan informed that BIS has been asked to write letters to all states including Delhi and also to concerned officials from various ministries to create a consensus among them regarding making the standards mandatory.
Further, the minister stressed on research to be done to create basic testing kits which could be easily used and understood by all people that will help them ascertain whether the water is clean enough to drink or not.
Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to provide piped drinking water to all households by 2024 and Paswan said that he has started this Abhiyaan which has begun from Delhi and will be taken across the nation while FSSAI has no mandate as yet on the subject.

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