Ever wonder how the multinationals and trans-nationals of the world (not to forget our own walking-talking advertisements for Make in India) have already converted an “ubiquity” (something that is omnipresent) into a “commodity” that can be commercially exploited. Yes, we are talking of water here – packaged drinking water, if you may.
I know that you find it uber cool to carry your bottle of “mineral” water that is “fortified” with stuff that the label says is good for your obese, samosa munching, obscenely belching self. The packaging also comes replete with terms like “reverse osmosis”, “seven layer filtration”, “hermetically sealed” and “mountain spring” to add to your “feel good factor” even as it peddles a product, that, in all probability, is spurious.
That, it is the Duty of the Municipalities and Corporations to provide you with “Safe” potable water is lost to us mind-blind Indians, as, the packaging and not the content fire our imagination, selfies are posted and corruption is debated. Amidst, cheers from crony capitalists and cricketing idols in their payrolls. Cheers to that!
Come, let us take a holistic view of the water conundrum. What is bottled drinking water, why is it bad for all concerned (except off course those counting the moolah), how is it made and more importantly, what does it mean to us:
- First you draw the water from the ground using electricity, which is overwhelmingly fossil fuel generated, leading to global warming and climate change.
- When you draw out the water, consistently and on an industrialized, commercial basis, you contribute to the depletion of the ground water levels with disastrous consequences to agriculture, other industries, communities depending on it and the fragile eco system as a whole.
- Then you manufacture the plastic bottles by burning more coal to generate electricity to run your bottling plants which fill the bottles with water that you “treat” with chemicals and other processes like reverse osmosis etc. The effluent is put back into the system with its own attending problems leading to contamination.
- The bottled water is then labeled, chilled, put into cartons and shipped, again by energy guzzling processes with huge carbon footprints that do not even get a mention in the fine print.
- The finished product is then consumed and the bottles tossed with total disregard. These used plastic bottles are like cancer to the environment, as they are neither bio degradable nor eco friendly.
- Oh I forgot, millions of Dollars (Rupees to you Resident Non-Indians) – dollars that could have been gainfully used to address national (global?) concerns of hunger, education, or for that matter, access to safe drinking water – are spent on advertising, so that demand can be created for something that we do not need.
- Hang on buddies, there is more. Consumption patterns are skewed with the economically advanced western states of India consuming much more than the relatively weaker eastern states.
- Southern India surprisingly, has large concentration of bottling plants – more than 55 % of the (appx.) 3400 bottling plants in India. Does it make sense, considering the fact that the Southern States are water starved, especially Tamil Nadu which is perpetually at war for its share of river water? Another case of “River wise and Bottle foolish”.
- The industry, which hires the services of some of the most erudite spin-doctors, is vociferous about its efficacy and ascribes the boom-boom situation to:
- Burgeoning population
- Rapid Urbanization
- Phenomenal increase in Tourism
- Growing awareness about drinking water safety.
- Inability of central local government to provide clean drinking and safe draining water
- Strained government resources
Convinced? Great! Ek bottle Paani dena bhaiya.
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