A Sindh Assembly’s body, dealing with the impure bottled water issue, recommended the government to increase punishment for the suppliers of contaminated bottled water after it was informed on Saturday that at least 28 firms had been found supplying such hazardous water.
They recommended that the imprisonment should be extended from the existing one year to five years and the fine from Rs50,000 to Rs0.5million.
During its proceedings on Saturday, the MPAs body also asked the Home Department to get FIRs registered against such water suppliers. The committee has summoned cantonment boards at the next meeting to explain the quality of water being supplied in their areas.
Director General Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) Dr Akhter Bughio informed the committee that they have cancelled the licences of 28 bottled water suppliers in Sindh, besides rejecting four applications for granting such licenses.
Bughio said that they had also filed cases against three suppliers of bottled water that were pending before judicial magistrates in Karachi. He also presented a list of 73 producers of mineral water, who had valid licenses till April, 2012.
A senior official of KMC informed the MPAs that they had registered 20 producers of bottled water while the rest of suppliers were operating in cantonment areas. The KMC official revealed that they collected 1,624 samples of mineral water during the last 10 years, of which 510 were found unfit for human consumption.
On a query by MPA Munawar Ali Abbasi, the official said that the KMC used to have its own magistrates in the past to pursue such cases but now they had to approach the Law Department to take up these cases.
When the PSQCA official said that they had sent the cases to magistrates, Munawar Abbasi said that normal courts were already overburdened with other cases. The MPA equated the lack of pursuance of such cases with the “apathy” of the concerned departments.
To a question by MPA Aisha Khoso, the DG PSQCA admitted that the manufacturers, whose licenses had been canceled, were still supplying bottled water in the market.
Dr Akhter Bughio said that they had been continuing monthly checks of the producers but quarterly test of bottled water was mandatory.
Reading out the list of valid licence holders, MPA Abbasi pointed out that the licences of around 11 water producers had not been renewed for the last one to two years.
The PSQCA official said that sometimes the manufacturers did not operate their water plants for up to six months so they could not renew the same.
Asked by Aisha Khoso as to what the PSQCA was doing against those unlicensed manufacturers who were supplying contaminated water, Bughio said they had a media cell with proper budget to inform the people about the hazards of consuming such water. Munawar Abbasi remarked that nothing happened in reality and this (media publicity) might only be nothing more than paperwork.
Chairman of the Special Committee, Syed Muhammad Bachal Shah, expressed his surprise that three institutions — PSQCA, KMC and cantonments — were dealing with water suppliers separately.
He observed that mineral water in Sindh was not purified while the suppliers of unregistered brands were minting money at the cost of public health.
Bachal Shah directed the PSQCA to publicise the list of registered and unregistered bottled water suppliers.
He said that imprisonment and fine should be raised to act as deterrence against the manufactures of contaminated mineral water. MPA Heer Soho also attended the meeting.
According to the list provided by PSQCA to the PA body, the licences of following 28 bottled water manufacturers have been cancelled:
Hirra, Viva, Classic, Khas, Urooj, Hi-Aqua, Stream, Cool Spring, Health Care, Mountain Fresh, Fontalia, Zindagi, Multix, Ashlay Water, Eden, Pak Water, Water Plus, Dewlets, The Water Evian, Leau, UBO, Buxton Xtreme Al-Tash, Hydra-7, Eye Line, Defence, Euphoria Future Plus Aqua Life and Asmo.
Following the unanimous passage of a resolution moved by Aisha Khoso, the Sindh Assembly had formed a special committee to examine and make recommendations for taking action against the producers and suppliers of contaminated bottled water.