SC asks manufacturers to approach govt on NGT order prohibiting RO units

New Delhi, Nov 22 (PTI) The Supreme Court asked RO purifier makers on Friday to approach the government within 10 days on their grievance over the National Green Tribunal's order prohibiting the use of their units at places where total dissolved solids (TDS) in water are below 500 mg per litre.

In May this year, the NGT had directed the government to regulate the use of reverse osmosis or RO purifiers and prohibit them where TDS in water are below 500 mg per litre, besides sensitising public about ill-effects of demineralised water.

TDS is made up of inorganic salts as well as small amounts of organic matter. As per a study by World Health Organisation, TDS levels below 300 mg per litre are considered to be excellent, while 900 mg per litre is said to be poor and above 1200 mg is unacceptable.

RO is a water treatment process that removes contaminants from water by using pressure to force molecules through a semipermeable membrane.

A bench comprising Justices R F Nariman and S Ravindra Bhat passed the order while hearing a plea filed by Water Quality India Association, representing RO manufacturers, challenging the NGT order.

The petitioner's counsel, while saying that the NGT had passed a 'blanket prohibition' order, referred to the recent Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) report which stated that drinking water in the national capital failed quality tests.

BIS report mentions presence of 'heavy metal' in water in Delhi, the counsel said, adding that RO is the only system to remove metals like Aluminium from water.

The counsel argued that NGT had passed the order after perusing report of an expert committee constituted by the tribunal but the report did not say about prohibiting the use of RO purifiers.

'There is an expert committee report,' the bench said, adding, 'The report says huge amount of water is being wasted. It says cut this down. There is nothing wrong with it'.

The counsel said that NGT order speaks about TDS but there are other harmful minerals in the water and there are reports about contamination of groundwater in places like Mumbai.

He said the NGT has asked the government to issue a notification in this regard.

When the counsel said they have several materials which they want to place before the concerned authorities, the bench said, 'we will make it clear that whatever material you want to place, you place it before the ministry'.

The bench said the concerned ministry would examine the materials placed by the association before issuing the notification.

The NGT order had asked the government to make it mandatory to recover more than 60 per cent water wherever RO is permitted across the country.

The expert committee, in its report filed in the NGT, had said if TDS is less than 500 milligrams per litre, RO system will not be useful but result in removing important minerals as well as cause undue wastage of water.

The tribunal had asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to issue directions and said the notification may also provide for a mechanism for public awareness about ill effects of demineralised water.

The NGT had passed the order while hearing a plea filed by an NGO seeking conservation of potable water by preventing its wastage on account of unnecessary use of RO systems.

The NGT expert committee comprised of representatives of MoEF, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS), IIT (Delhi) and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Delhi (NEERI, Delhi). PTI ABA SA