Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) has cancelled the licence of three bottled and jar water brands and suspended operations of seven others after finding their water unsafe.
The brands that lost their licences are Ananda Plus (jar), Real First (jar) and Best One.
And the companies whose operations have been suspended are Canny (jar), Aqua Mineral (small bottle), Alma (small bottle), SFB (jar), Osma (jar), Epic (jar) and Yummy Yummy (small bottle), according to a BSTI report.
The state-run quality control watchdog submitted the report to the High Court yesterday along with its test report on the water quality of these brands.
Talking to The Daily Star, Deputy Attorney General Mokhlesur Rahman said all the ingredients of safe water were not present in the water sold by these companies.
The court is expected to pass further orders on the matter on March 5.
The development comes just weeks after a BSTI drive found that 40 percent plastic bottles and water jars sold commercially in Dhaka are laced with microorganisms, making the water unsafe for consumption.
The drive was conducted from January 1 to February 11 to check the water quality of the licensed companies, only to find the grim picture.
More than 300 companies supply jar waters in Dhaka, although the BSTI has issued only 175 licences.
Quality of the water supplied by unlicensed companies would obviously be worse, said a BSTI official.
BSTI's surveillance team found abnormalities in 10 out of the 22 samples collected for testing from across Dhaka. Two of the samples had 26 times more “plate count”, the standard for measuring the presence of microorganisms. One sample showed extremely low PH level, which means the water was too acidic. Another sample had E Coli, a germ found in faeces that causes diarrhoea and other diseases, said SM Ishaque Ali, a director at BSTI.
During the drive, the BSTI destroyed more than 26,000 unsafe jars and filed cases against 76 suppliers.
In order to produce and sell drinking water, a company needs to have licences from the BSTI, Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) of Dhaka, the commerce, environment and labour ministries, and the city corporation.
But to meet the high demand, many companies are producing, bottling and openly selling jarred and bottled drinking water without any of these certifications.
“It is alarming to see the high number of plate count in portable water samples,” said Mohidus Samad Khan, associate professor at the chemical engineering department of Buet.
“It is important to analyse the types of microorganisms present in the sample to fully understand the short and long-term effects on the human body, especially on children,” he told The Daily Star.
Different microorganisms affect the human body in different ways; therefore, affected patients should consult a doctor to take proper medication, he added.
Nowadays, most offices and restaurants in Dhaka rely on jar suppliers for drinking water. Many new buildings and housing projects in and around the city that have no gas connection also depend on jar and bottled water, but their quality has always been a big concern.
Only last year, a study by Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) found that 98 percent of the water jars sold in Dhaka had E Coli in them.
For that study, the government body had collected 35 kinds of water bottles and 250 kinds of jars manufactured by 150 companies -- both BSTI-certified and non-certified -- from 24 points in Dhaka.
The samples, collected during April-October, were later tested by SGS Bangladesh Ltd, a globally accredited inspection, verification, testing and certification company.
In May last year, a public interest petition was filed with the High Court based on newspaper reports about the quality of water. On December 3, the court heard the petition, filed by High Court lawyer Shammi Akhter, and ordered the removal of illegal and unsafe jar and bottled water from the market.
The court also ordered the BSTI to submit a report on the quality of bottled and jar water available on the market in a week.
The watchdog responded partially on January 21, saying water supplied by five companies was unsafe to drink.