In its quarterly report of January-March 2015, the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) has revealed that eight brands of bottled water available in market are “unsafe for public consumption” due to “chemical and microbiological contaminations”. The brands include Aqua Safe, Al-Haider, Butt, Noble, Drop Ice, Al-Sana, Effort and Days Pure. The aforementioned brands sell water containing high levels of arsenic, potassium and microbiological agents, which adversely affect the health of consumers who are mostly unaware of what they are being sold.

Although the PCRWR has recommended imposition of heavy penalties on such brands, the government needs to clarify that why these companies have been allowed to operate in the first place? Do they require no licenses or any other form of approval before they can peddle their product in the market? Should PCRWR not be conducting tests before any company is allowed to conduct business? Sure, they have been caught now, but the government is still responsible for risking the lives of unsuspecting citizens by failing to prevent the sale of contaminated water. Will the government now shut down such businesses and ensure punishment for culprits? Or are they going to walk away with a slap on the wrist because they happen to be rich and influential? Most important, will those government officials who granted them permission to set up shop and sell be held accountable under law?

Another news reports has revealed that out of a total of 392, no less than 252 tube-wells in Lahore are contaminated with arsenic. The quality of water in other parts of the province and the wider country isn’t satisfactory either. Considering that 60% of infant deaths in Pakistan can be attributed to waterborne diseases, it is crucial for the government to take steps to rectify the situation. So far, it is not doing anything, which would reflect any sense of urgency or responsibility as citizens continue to suffer whether they consume tap water or bottled water. Be it conservation of water, efficient utilisation of available resources or prevention of contamination – the state is failing on all fronts. It must take the issue seriously before it finds itself in a position where everything it does proves to be too little and too late.