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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar has directed bottled water companies to pay the price of groundwater and improve the quality of their products within a week, warning their owners that the firms will otherwise be shut down.

The Supreme Court was informed on Monday that the bottled water companies in the country were extracting seven billion litres of groundwater per month to sell it as mineral water for public consumption.

“If Re1 per litre is charged, the amount for extracting seven billion litres of water becomes Rs7 billion every month,” says a report submitted by a Supreme Court-formed committee to a three-judge SC bench headed by the chief justice.

The committee comprised Prof Dr Mohammad Ahsan Siddiqui, an environmental scientist, and Director General of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Farzana Altaf Shah.

The apex court was hearing a suo motu case regarding the sale of bottled water and extraction of groundwater by bottled water companies.

Improve quality of products or face shutdown, CJP tells owners of companies

The court asked owners of the companies to pay the price for groundwater they extracted for their products.

The court was informed that the level of groundwater in Karachi had gone to 1,300 feet whereas canals and different water courses had dried up in Punjab. It was also told that sewage water was being used for cultivation of vegetables in different parts of the country.

According to the report, majority of beverage companies in the country discharge their waste water with total dissolved solids (TDS) less than 1,200 PPM. Therefore, it said, this water should be used for agricultural purposes rather than its direct discharge into sewerage lines.

The committee, which visited 44 water and beverages plants of different national and multinational companies in all the four provinces, observed in its report that in the history of Pakistan water had been a luxury for the end user. But with the passage of time, it has become a challenge to meet the ever-increasing water demand of the population. Meeting the future demand of water in the country would be a challenge, it added.

The report said that during inspections, the committee found that many bottled water and beverage plants had not installed flow meters on their extraction units. Therefore, it said, it was strongly recommended that such companies must install flow meters on every extraction unit in their plants.

Moreover, the report said, Reverse Osmosis (RO) operators at different beverage plants were not up to the required standards, adding that there was a need to inculcate extensive capability development training among them.

During the inspections, the report said, it was found that two beverage companies — Pepsi Sukkur and Pepsi Hyderabad — were using river and canal water for their products.

It was also observed that the concentration of minerals mentioned on the labels of water bottles was not accurate, the committee said, adding that special measures should be taken by all companies to minimise the plastic waste generated by them through awareness campaigns on print and electronic media.

Environmental management plan

It was also observed that some of the water bottling and beverages plants did not have relevant environmental approval. The report recommended that all plants should obtain approval in context to their environmental management plan from relevant environmental protection agencies.

The report stated that certain companies were using carbon dioxide (CO2) in their products which they purchased from vendors without proper analysis of carbon monoxide. According to the report, these companies should conduct in-house tests for carbon monoxide concentration. The companies should rather install CO2 recovery plants through which they will utilise CO2 from their own boilers to reduce its impact on environment in the form of smog.

The committee observed that no other water bottling and beverages plants other than Nestle Sheikhupura, Coca-Cola Lahore, Gujranwala, Multan, Rahim Yar Khan and Karachi, Murree Brewery Rawalpindi, Pepsi Sukkur, Hyderabad, and Nestle Kabirwala had installed waste water treatment plants (WWTP). The report said all water bottling and beverages plants should install WWTP and septic tanks under intimation to the Supreme Court through undertakings.

The report stated that all companies should be directed to ensure execution of tree plantation under respective approvals that they have obtained under their corporate social responsibilities. The companies should additionally plant 25,000 trees per annum, the report suggested.

The report also suggested that the companies should install salt recovery plants and WWTP as soon as possible, adding that all companies should submit a compliance report of the observations made during the inspection visits of their respective bottling facilities with action plan and time frame within 30 days.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2018

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