Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] On draft notification on RO systems

When implemented, the notification’s primary aim should be to persuade authorities to upgrade and supply BIS-standard water at the consumer’s end. This should be done without additional costs, particularly on millions who now lack access to protected supply.
By IASToppers
February 10, 2020

Contents

  • Context
  • What is Reverse Osmosis?
  • Current Status of Water Supply in India
  • About the Notification
  • Criticism of the notification
  • Way Forward

On draft notification on RO systems

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Context

  • Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change issued a draft notification to regulate the use of membrane-based water purification systems or Reverse Osmosis(RO) water filter systems in areas where the water supplied meets Bureau of Indian Standards norms.
  • The above notification comes after the National Green Tribunal had banned the use of the Osmosis(RO) water filter systems.

What is Reverse Osmosis?

  • Reverse osmosis removes contaminants from unfiltered water when pressure forces it through a semipermeable membrane. Water flows from the more concentrated side (more contaminants) of the RO membrane to the less concentrated side (fewer contaminants) to provide clean drinking water.
  • RO systems can reduce the total dissolved solids (TDS) in water, thus helping meet potable water standards. [TDS measures all organic and inorganic content dissolved in water].
  • However, RO systems are highly inefficient. They waste nearly 80% of water during treatment.
  • Additionally, some research has shown that the RO process can reduce the levels of vital nutrients like calcium and magnesium.

Current Status of Water Supply in India

  • India is home to ~17% of world’s population but has only 4% of the world’s freshwater resources
  • According to NITI Aayog `s Composite Water Management Index (CWMI), 70% of water supply in India is contaminated.
  • India is ranked 120th among 122 countries in an NGO, WaterAid’s quality index.
  • As per the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), out of 28 test parameters Delhi failed in 19, Chennai in 9, and Kolkata in 10 parameters in its rankings on official water supply quality. The BIS norms are voluntary for public agencies which supply piped water but are mandatory for bottled water producers.

About the Notification

  • The notification mainly deals with rules for commercial suppliers and for the integration of systems that inform consumers about TDS levels. This is envisaged both before the water enters filtration systems and after it has been filtered.
  • Notification is applicable to homes which get water that conforms to Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for Drinking Water.
  • The aim is to ensure that after 2022, no more than 25% of water being treated is wasted and for residential complexes to reuse the residual wastewater for other activities, including gardening.

Criticism of the notification

  • Several State and city water boards claim BIS standards, however, the water at homes falls short of the test parameters. Moreover, most of the country does not have access to piped water.
  • Also restricting people’s choices on the means they employ to ensure potable water is weak.

Way Forward:

When implemented, the notification’s primary aim should be to persuade authorities to upgrade and supply BIS-standard water at the consumer’s end. This should be done without additional costs, particularly on millions who now lack access to protected supply.

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