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Say No To RO

Goa govt must sensitize people on ill-effects of use of RO purifiers

MORE and more Goans now prefer to drink safe water, but they have to be careful about what source they are using. Nearly six months ago the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to prohibit the use of reverse osmosis (RO) purifiers within one month in areas where total dissolved solids (TDS) in water were below 500 mg per litre. The MoEF&CC did nothing for six months. The NGT warned MoEF&CC officials of harsh action in case its directions were not complied with by December 31, 2019. The NGT has sought compliance of its directions at the next hearing scheduled on January 10, 2020 and warned of sterner measures if the MoEF&CC failed to follow them. The directions regulating RO purifiers were issued after an expert committee set up by the NGT and comprising representatives of MoEF&CC, the Central Pollution Control Board, the Bureau of Indian Standards, IIT-Delhi and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, gave its report stating the ill-effects of consuming RO purified water. The MoEF&CC wanted to have more time to comply with the NGT order, but the NGT rejected its plea. The MoEF&CC’s plea was one of the usual bureaucratic kinds. It said that regulating RO purifiers was a policy-related matter, which comprised multidimensional features including complex issues and varied users, and hence region-wise detailed consultations would be required before the issue of notification. The NGT said any delay in compliance of its order would cause harm to public health and environment.

The MoEF&CC must not delay issue of a notification for states to take steps to prohibit use of RO purifiers. Their responsibility does not end there; they have to see that the concerned departments sensitize the public about the ill-effects of consumption of de-mineralized water. RO purifiers reduce mineral intake from water, and this reduction is not compensated by diet. Low-mineral water can be responsible also for an increased elimination of minerals such as calcium and magnesium from the body. The water supplied by municipalities and other public entities from lakes, rivers and ponds does not need RO filtration. The experts recommend installation of RO plants at sources of water that has TDS levels above 500 mg per litre (mg/l), which is the acceptable limit as per the 2012 Indian Drinking Water Standards.

People are becoming more and more health conscious and taking extra care to avoid falling victim to viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms that cause diseases. Most diseases are water-borne. People use water purifiers. Taking advantage of the health concerns among people, different companies have been producing and marketing a variety of devices including RO purifiers, advancing a claim that these purifiers through ultraviolet radiation kill all the harmful bacteria and remove impurities. However, experts have found that the reverse osmosis also removes some essential minerals which are required for human body. Goans have started using water purifiers and RO purifiers despite the fact that the PWD water supplied through pipelines is safe. Though concerns have been raised about declining quality of water supplied in Goa, PWD officials dismiss them as baseless. To buttress their claim they point out that there are hardly any instance of outbreak of diseases like cholera, typhoid and diarrhea, known to be caused by contaminated water.

Now that the NGT has issued a directive to prohibit use of RO purifiers in the areas where total dissolved solids (TDS) in water were below 500 mg per litre, the Goa government through its health, environment and consumer affairs departments should start sensitizing people to persuade them not to use RO purifiers to avoid the harmful effects of consuming de-mineralized water. Adequate publicity in the mass media should be made to warn consumers of the damages use of RO purifiers may cause. There should also be adequate publicity on the best practices of use of water purifiers which have become common in middle class homes and even restaurants. The devices need to be checked regularly to make sure they are doing their work effectively. At the same time, the PWD must introduce better protective measures to guarantee that the water supplied through pipelines is not contaminated.

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