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Sunday, November 1, 2015

it is raining ~ but Chennai is facing drinking water shortage ~ - mineral waters and pet bottles

                     A wet Chennai ! ~ though the water stagnation and traffic trouble caused inconvenience, rains are welcome.  Chennai, is already drying up – indications for an impending water crisis.  We see lot of tanker lorries carrying water and return to those days of handpumps on roads … not good for the city. 

This is an age where not many depend on Chennai Metro water – for some – it is ‘aerated water’ - - - Cool drinks are fizz…. People get carried by the advertisements and imagine the brand when they think ‘thanda (mathlub) -  yes, it makes one salaivate – imaging the pleasure of holding a canned juice or ice-cold drink – opening and sipping it…. ..the fizz is lost once the lid is open – and not the same, if you were to drink after sometime.   

In physics, Henry's law is one of the ‘gas laws’ formulated by William Henry in 1803. It states that:  At a constant temperature, the amount of a given gas that dissolves in a given type and volume of liquid is directly proportional to the partial pressure of that gas in equilibrium with that liquid.  As you would have observed in all carbonated soft drinks, before the bottle is opened, the gas above the drink is almost pure carbon dioxide at a pressure slightly higher than atmospheric pressure. The drink itself contains dissolved carbon dioxide. When the bottle or can is opened, some of this gas escapes, giving the characteristic hiss.   Because the pressure above the liquid is now lower, some of the dissolved carbon dioxide comes out of solution as bubbles. If a glass of the drink is left in the open, the concentration of carbon dioxide in solution will come into equilibrium with the carbon dioxide in the air, and the drink will go "flat”.

We have travelled a very long way in the recent couple of decades – from tap water to mineral water……….. now lot many of us fear of water contamination, apprehending that we are susceptible to some infection, if we drink water elsewhere……. Where has the immunity gone or has the water outside turned worser  ?

Even in costly Hotels, before you order food, they try to sell the mineral water – is it not their duty [and included in the cost] to serve quality potable water ? – then why ask whether it is ordinary water of quality mineral water that one wants ??

People walk and live with Mineral water… in bottles, cans and in every form. In its true form, Mineral water is water containing minerals or other dissolved substances that alter its taste or give it therapeutic value, generally obtained from a naturally occurring mineral spring or source. Mineral water can be sparkling (with effervescence), or still (without effervescence).  So you derive more value if you consume the mineral water at its source often curatory.  There are some Tourist centres built around the mineral water sites of ancient times in Europe and elsewhere. 

What we buy is not actually ‘mineral water’ – but simply packaged water – and in that context the ‘amma water’ is a big hit.  Many (un)branded water products are not treated properly but simply packed and distributed.   Whilst no classification or control seemingly exists in our Country, in US the Food and Drug Admn classifies mineral water as water containing at least 250 parts per million total dissolved solids, originating from a geologically and physically protected underground water source. No minerals may be added to this water. 

Bisleri was the first branded water introduced in Indian market by Bisleri Limited, a company of Italian origin that stormed the market way back in 1965 ! Almost 50 years ago, somebody thinking that water could be sold and marketed is really ingenuous !!   later Parle bought the Company and continued with Bisleri water.  It was first in glass bottles, then PVC nonreturnable and then to PET over the years.  Now, We have so many brands available in the market such as : Aquafina, Bailey, Bibo,  Bisleri,  Dew Drops,  Golden Eagle, Haywards, Himalayan, Just Born, Kingfisher,  Snow pure etc.,   Today, production and distribution of packaged water is a multi crore industry.

Now there are thousands of bottling plants and more than 100 brands of packaged water blatantly exploiting the common man.  According to UNDP estimates, around 1.2 billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water. Today, there are more people in the world's hospitals suffering from waterborne diseases than any other ailment.  It is the duty of the State to provide potable water – MNCs would continue advertising on ill-effects of water contamination, for it only enhances their sales.  There will be more clamour for imported water treatment technology like activated carbon and ultra violet  disinfection,  reverse osmosis and of more technologies. 

The market is wide open and not limited to Bisleri, Kinley, Aquafina, Himalayan – there are so many other local brands - ~ and in between ‘Amma water’ and ‘rail neer’ – have given all others a run.  Fickle consumers have also contributed to the sector's punishing margins. Ironically, bottled water that claims to be a 'safe' alternative to ordinary tap water is itself suspect, as was revealed in a high-profile expose by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), couple of years back.  It is stated that some brands had high pesticide content than permissible.

A decade or so ago, the idea arose that athletes might gain a competitive edge by drinking water that contained extra dissolved oxygen (O2). The notion stems from observations that O2 breathing during exercise enhances athletic performance, and you have many energy drinks too.  
Out there in California, a resident  filed a putative nationwide class action against Austrian and British companies that sell Oxygizer®, a “designer water” product promoted as an athletic performance aid, alleging that increased oxygen content cannot deliver the benefits claimed.  The plaintiff claimed that she purchased one bottle of the water and “did not and could not have obtained any of the beneficial effects of the water advertised by the defendants.”
In between – what is your favourite [water] brand ? ….  Sadly, it is not the tale of Chennai and other metropolis – water bottles [water packets too!] – make roaring sales in villages too… here is a photo of pet bottles lying in a heap – a health hazard by itself !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

31st Oct 2o15

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