In our country drinking RO water is stark necessity for some, essential for many and just a splurge for the others. Most of us use RO water as an abundant caution to protect ourselves from waterborne diseases. It is pertinent that atleast 4 parts of water is needed to produce 1 part of RO water resulting in gross wastage of water. It is also true that the wastage of potable water is a global problem and wastage of potable water just for  luxury/ status to a person is indeed criminal. But at the same time it has to be borne in mind that the ground water is polluted, heavy, full of hazardous metals and its consumption in raw form would  result in a number of critical illness. The water of the rivers has also been contaminated due to discharge of untreated sewage  & industrial effluents directly in the rivers making the river water venomous & impotable.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has recently directed the Ministry of Environment to issue a notification by December 31, 2020 to ban use of all RO (Reverse Osmosis) Purifiers, wherein the TDS i.e. Total Dissolved Solids in the water is less than 500mg per litre of water. It is worth mentioning that according to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the upper limit of TDS level in water is 500 ppm as against WHO guidelines for 300 ppm. The World Health Organization considers TDS  level less than 300 mg/litre as excellent, between 300 and 600 mg/liter as good, 600-900 as fair, 900 – 1200 as poor and TDS level above 1200 mg/liter as unacceptable.

It is trite to mention here that the National Green Tribunal had earlier vide its order dated May 28, 2019 instructed the Ministry to issue notification prohibiting use of RO’s in areas where TDS in water was less than 500 milligram/ litre. The said order of the NGT was not accepted by the RO machine manufacturers of India. Aggrieved by NGT’s impugned order, the Water Quality Association of India i.e. manufacturers of RO purifiers approached the Apex Court which had directed them to approach the Ministry along with relevant material to represent their case against the proposed ban imposed by NGT. However the ministry has till date not taken any decision nor has issued an appropriate notification in this regard.

NGT had obtained an expert committee report which had highlighted that RO water purifier system demineralizes water, in areas where TDS in water is less than 500 milligram/ litre, and the resultant water is unhealthy for human consumption. Accordingly, it had imposed the said ban. The RO machine manufacturers are intrigued as to what should be their future course of action especially because of hefty investments made by them in installing state of art technology & Research & Development for development of efficient machines. It is also important that the general public is also habitual of drinking RO water considering the health hazards of regular untreated water.

We have to strike a balance between the indispensability of RO purifiers vis a vis the losses incurred due to demineralisation. It is true that the TDS of reputed brands of bottled water available in our country range from 60-120 ppm. This is incredibly low and akin to distilled water, which is not conducive to heallth. The bottled spring water or mountain water is certainly rich in minerals and is considered healthy but is very costly. Instead of using RO machines at places where raw water has lower TDS, water filter or ordinary water purifier designed to remove protozoa, bacteria and viruses should be used so as to retain the necessary minerals in water necessary for our health.

It cannot be denied that RO water has become indispensable for the Indian Household. The abundance of polluted water containing harmful metals like cobalt & arsenic have made RO mandatory for all people alike.  It is therefore imperative for the Government to put an end to this impasse and issue a notification, before the next date of hearing in NGT, creating checks & balances for use of RO addressing the environmental issues, expedient need of the public and the financial involvement of the RO machine industry.

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October 2021