New Delhi, Aug. 25: The Supreme Court today issued notices to the Centre for framing guidelines to fix standards for drinking water to rid it of pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
The court issued notices to the Union food ministry and the consumer affairs, health and environment ministries on the basis of a petition by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
The CSE, whose findings this month that samples of 12 soft drinks contain very high levels of pesticides caused a furore, said drinking water across India contains similar substances.
In a letter to the Supreme Court, the CSE said potable water samples tested nationwide contained pesticides and sought a direction to the Centre to fix standards for drinking water. A bench of Chief Justice V.. Khare and Justice S.B. Sinha treated the letter as a petition and issued notices to the Centre today.
On Friday, Trilochan Singh Kathpal, a scientist with the all-India co-ordinated research project of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, had said agricultural scientists have been sitting for years on evidence that India’s water is contaminated with pesticides. He said the first signals of the extent of pesticide residues in groundwater and in irrigation water emerged five years ago and have been supported by subsequent reviews. But scientists have not gone public with the information for fear of causing an explosion of public concern.
Appearing for the CSE, senior counsel Rajeev Dhawan and lawyer Sanjay Parikh today said the Centre had issued a notification fixing standards for bottled water after the institute revealed in February the presence of pesticides in the water. But it said similar guidelines had not been issued for potable water. The CSE counsel said the Centre should fix standards for drinking water “as crores of Indians drink water which is not even potable”.
The judges directed additional solicitor-general Mukul Rohtagi to take instructions from the Centre and file an affidavit within four weeks.
The apex court clubbed the CSE petition with a similar plea by Sakshi, an NGO. Sakshi said indiscriminate use of pesticides in agriculture had resulted in contamination of food, milk, groundwater and even breast milk (since vegetables that are consumed contain pesticides). The court has made the Association of Pesticide Manufacturers a party to the case and said both matters should come up for hearing after seven weeks.