I have a notion about the current trend of drinking bottled water in Yangon and all the cost and difficulties it entailed. I am not part of that trend and still drinks water from our tubewell, either from the tap or from a sand filter which have been in use for over 40 years at home.
Recently, I read a blog by Sourav Roy which I have produced below:
June 6, 2010 · 4 Comments
Why are we scared of drinking water? Everytime, when we travel, why are we afraid to drink water from railway station filters? Why do we so often come across shouts of “Don’t drink that water!” ringing in our ears? And we take the advice seriously- we pledge our loyalty to bottled water, we distrust the ability of water filters to tame the toughest bacteria, and the money we spend on water during an average day of travel, is more than the daily wages of half of our countrymen!
70% of earth is covered with water. 57% of human body weight is water. And still, a middle class working class hero is afraid of it! He purchases bottles, which are never recycled, and manufactured under conditions one will puke upon! The piping, the bottling, the transportation, the greenhouse gases are all unnecessary! So, not only we are ridiculing ourselves by becoming slaves to packaged water, but also adding enormous amount of wastes to our mother earth! Bottled water is not safer and certainly not cheaper than running water! And I don’t think it tastes any better either!
Why don’t we start using reusable bottles? Have we totally forgotten bottles made of stainless steel or lined aluminum? Start reusing any convenient bottle you have at hand! More than 80% of the country drinks regular municipality supplied water- are they dead? Why only the privileged few has stomach-ache, head-ache, tooth-ache if they drink running water? The point is simple! Humans are getting conditioned by their own luxuries. We are being pampered to an extent that only disasters teach us to appreciate the nature and all its offerings, or are we waiting for a day when water will be costlier than petroleum?
Reading this blog led me on a train of thought influenced by my experiences.
I still drink water at home the way I did for over 20 years. Water from tube well filtered through a sand filter that was bought in a pottery shop and filled with home cleaned sand. My father made it and although the trend now in Yangon is to drink bottled water, I still drink water the usual way.
When I was young, we have not heard of any bottled water. Back then, we drank water from the Railways Department tube well that is supplied to the quarters where we lived and passed through a cloth filter, the traditional way. Later, when my parents moved to downtown Rangoon, we drank municipal supplied water. It was then that my father prepared a sand filter, and we have used it for over 40 years even after we moved again about 20 years ago to the current house where I now live and we use tube well water again as municipal water is unavailable.
When I rowed in the Kandawgyi and Inya lakes, I drank a lot of the lake water, although they contained visible particles. When we travelled, we drank any water available locally, including the water sold at railway stations which are essentially water from the Railways sources. They were sold in pots and everyone bought them. Some bought boiled water.
When I was attending microbiology classes, a teacher taught us methods of water filtration and when he came to the topic of the cloth filter that most used at home, he remarked that its real function is to remove leaves and earthworms. In actual, it removes much smaller particles and most that are visible of course. Sand filters and candle filters were the best available at the time.
When drinking water debuted some time ago, I wondered whether they will make a business in Myanmar as we are a poor underdeveloped country. But I was surprised at the way our people embraced the notion of drinking the bottled water and today, it has become a way of life to drink bottled water in Yangon and while travelling.
Nowadays people buy potable bottled water and bottled water business is booming and it has become a way of life. But most bottled water sold is not up to the Standards. Apart from some tricksters who refilled the used bottles with any tap water, the quality of many 20 liter water bottles are questionable apart from being free of visible particles.
I read that use of clear plastic bottles is only one of the criteria that the bottled water is up to Standard. The source of the water is also very important and whether it has been tested to screen out “all” possible dangerous substances is also an important factor.
Recently, there are a lot of “arsenic” problems found with tube wells in many countries in Asia, including Myanmar. A news about many areas in the Ayeyarwaddy and Bago divisions being affected had come out and it did not include Yangon. Yet the news did not specifically mention the areas that have been tested and found to be arsenic free so I do not know whether Yangon water supply has been tested and proved to be arsenic free.
The Standard Water Test does not include test for Arsenic so we cannot safely assume that even the approved and big selling brands are arsenic free.
The only consolation I have is that I am drinking water as I had for over the past 30 years and so far I and my family do not have any arsenic poisoning features and I do not have to worry whether the bottled water is safe.