Bottled Water Plant Leaves Villagers Thirsty
When Clear Water Pvt Ltd, a bottled water company, set up in Udagampola, Gampaha in the village of Pedipola in 2002, its factory relied on one tube well for ground water extraction. At this point in time, the 320 families that reside in Pedipola had never faced water scarcity, even in times of severe drought.
However since the factory constructed two additional tube wells last September, the villagers have reported that their wells have dried up for the first time. The depletion of ground water resources by this factory, coupled with the intense drought conditions that Sri Lanka is facing, have severely affected this community. They report that large bowsers of water leave the factory, which allegedly supplies not only drinking water but also water for swimming pools and service stations. The villagers have complained to many local authorities but the factory continues to recklessly draw groundwater.
The lack of regulation has enabled private companies to plunder water resources without expending any cost, at the expense of the villagers who rely mostly on wells for their domestic water supply. Under the National Environmental Act, factories only need to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment if they extract 500,000 cubic meters of water per day. This regulation is inadequate, as several factories in the same region could have a destructive cumulative effect on ground water sources even if they were individually drawing less than the stated limit per day. In addition, the absence of monitoring and regulation of water extraction means that factories could discreetly increase the quantity of water extracted and construct more tube wells.
Tighter and more comprehensive regulation is needed to offset and prevent the short-sighted self-interest of factories that overexploit groundwater resources. While companies can add a price to water and use the country’s water sources to gain profit, they should not do so by depriving its citizens of access to clean water.