Water wastage by RO purifiers for commercial interest of companies needs to be checked: NGT

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New Delhi, Jul 3 (PTI) Huge wastage of water in the use of RO purifiers merely for advancing the commercial interest of companies at the cost of public interest needs to be checked, the National Green Tribunal has said.

It directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to issue notification without delay banning RO purifiers where the level of total dissolved solids (TDS) in water is below 500 milligrams per litre.

The green panel said it was not expected that MoEF will take years to finalise the matter and seek repeated adjournments and extensions which is against the rule of law.

'It may be noted that high total dissolved solids (TDS), requiring RO (treatment), is found in groundwater. Considering huge wastage of water as rejects in the use of RO, such use merely advancing commercial interests need at the cost of loss of valuable water which needs to be checked. This purpose is defeated by inordinate delay by MoEF.

'This amounts to acting against the interest of the environment. Instead of permitting ROs, conductivity and TDS in water can be regulated and controlled by coordination of regulators concerned – MoJS with agencies supplying water like PHED/Water Supply and Sewerage/Municipal Body/Jal Nigam etc. saving huge amount of water which is being unduly wasted in the process of use of ROs against public interest,' the NGT said.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed the MoEF to ensure further action positively before the next date irrespective of steps by any other department which may delay the matter.

It warned that in case of failure, the NGT will be left with no other option except to take coercive measures personally against the officers concerned.

'The Secretary MoEF is directed to identify the dealing officers concerned and put them to notice of this order. Their names be furnished to this Tribunal before the next date so that they can be made accountable for upholding public interest and the rule of law,' the bench said.

The NGT in July last year had directed the MoEF to issue by the year-end a notification banning RO purifiers where TDS level in water is below 500 milligrams per litre. The tribunal had granted more time to the MoEF after it informed the tribunal that the exercise could not be completed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry had in January 2020, sought four months for executing the NGT order.

The MoEF, in its plea, had said that four months are required for effective compliance of the order -- two for wide circulation of draft notification inviting comments and two for incorporating comments, finalisation of notification and obtaining approval from the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The matter is listed for the next hearing on January 25.

The NGT had on the last date of hearing slammed the ministry for the delay in issuing the notification and warned the officer concerned of stopping his salary.

The tribunal had earlier said its order was based on a report of an expert committee, which also comprised a representative of the MoEF, and is enforceable without permission of any other authority with penal consequences.

In a bid to regulate the use of RO purifiers, the NGT had directed the government to prohibit them where TDS is below 500 mg per litre and to sensitise the public about the ill-effects of demineralised water.

The tribunal has also asked the government to make it mandatory to recover more than 60 per cent water wherever RO is permitted across the country.

TDS is made up of inorganic salts as well as small amounts of organic matter. As per a WHO study, TDS levels below 300 mg per litre are considered to be excellent, while 900 mg per litre is said to be poor and above 1,200 mg is unacceptable.

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

The order had come after perusing an expert committee report which said that if TDS is less than 500 milligrams per litre, a RO system will not be useful but will result in removing important minerals as well as cause undue wastage of water.

The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by NGO Friends seeking conservation of potable water by preventing its wastage on account of unnecessary use of RO systems. PTI PKS NSD

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