Crying out for action

Industry sources exude confidence about the water purifier segment. Manufacturers peg their hopes on the increasing purchasing power of the middle class in cities, small towns and the suburbs.

The water filter market thrives on a vicious circle. With municipalities failing to provide safe potable water, many turn to groundwater; overextraction affects water quality and water purifiers become the last-resort choice.

Most people who resort to water purifiers do not even have information on water quality. It also doesn't help that there are no laboratories where people can test water.

At the same time, bis and the ministry of consumer affairs have to fix standards for the water purifier industry in ways suited to Indian conditions. The product should be verified for its contaminant removal claims over its life span and also be tested for material safety.Labeling is another important requirement: manufacturers should be accurate in describing which contaminants their product can remove and to what extent. Operational and maintenance details must also be specified. Standards should deal with the applicability or the necessity of technologies in different conditions.

Norms to cut down water wastage must be laid down, especially for ro systems.

But purifiers cannot solve the problem of bad water quality. At best, they can offer partial solutions. Water purifiers are for the rich. It is no surprise that Delhi and Mumbai which have a huge population of rich and middle classes are the biggest markets for water purifiers.

We can't first pollute water and then clean it up

Our municipalities must also get their act together. The current system only encourages wastage: 30-60 per cent of treated water does not reach the consumers. Also it is estimated that urban India will invest Rs 69,000 crore in the next five years on water supply projects. The eleventh Five Year Plan also projects that urban water supply systems would on average spend Rs 8,300 crore annually on operation and maintenance