The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Water safety row rerun in Parliament

New Delhi, Feb. 27: The Opposition today attacked the Centre for the presence of pesticides and chemicals in bottled mineral water with ISI markings.

The issue, which has already come up several times in Parliament, resurfaced during question hour in the Rajya Sabha. Members called for a proper discussion and Rajya Sabha chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat said the matter needed the consideration of the House. Although no dates were announced, members have been promised time for a discussion.

A written question listed by Sukhdev Singh Libra and Abrar Ahmed asked the Centre to spell out the measures taken to ensure that the packaged drinking water standards are followed. A supplementary question asked about measures taken to ensure that the “unsafe” bottled water already in the market is retrieved.

Consumer affairs minister Sharad Yadav had anticipated the question and placed a statement in the House giving a background of the measures taken to ensure safe-packaged drinking water. “Contrary to belief, all units manufacturing bottled mineral and packaged water are not unsafe. We have inspected the units and closed down several belonging to eight companies. Units that have maintained the safety level have been allowed to operate,” Yadav claimed.

The minister explained that safety norms have been revised since the CSE report. “Taking cognisance of the study conducted by the CSE in the pesticide residues in bottled water, an emergency session was called to review the standards. This committee, after taking into consideration the limits laid down by the US, EU and WHO, decided to quantify the maximum limit for pesticide residuals and made the necessary amendments to the Indian Standards....The revised rules provide internationally established test methods to be used in India...,'' the minister said.

However most members were not reassured by Sharad Yadav's words. Laws are not enough and enforcement is what mattered, they said. Many wondered why an NGO had to point that unhealthy bottled water is being sold in India.

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