The government needs to refrain from blanket price control on bottled water

If your neighbourhood is like mine, which is not connected to a water supply line of Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL), and does not have public sources of water, such as stone spouts and wells, buying bottled jars may be the only option to get drinking water. Although there are limited data on what percentage of Kathmandu valley’s drinking water demand is met by bottled jars, Nepal Bottled Water Industries Association claims that 75 percent of drinking water is supplied by private water bottling plants. The average daily demand for drinking water in Kathmandu Valley, according to KUKL data, is 375 million liters per day. Water experts say that KUKL supplies water to only one-third of the 3.5 million people living in Kathmandu. With the rise in the cities population, the demand for drinking water is certain to rise. Thus, I won’t be wrong in saying that bottled water jars will be the only source of drinking water for many Kathmandu denizens for a long period of time, maybe until Melamchi starts flowing through water pipelines of Kathmandu.

Against this backdrop, the government’s recent price control measures on bottled water jars are deeply concerning. The Department of Commerce, Supplies, and Consumer Protection Management first fixed the maximum retail price of bottled jar water at Rs 50 after receiving complaints of high charges. The parliamentary committee intervened and stopped the department from carrying through with its decision. Now, the department is once again warning private bottlers against charging its fixed prices and said that the price will be the same as before. These constant changes in the government’s decisions have caused nothing but confusion to consumers, like me. As previously mentioned, thousands of families currently rely on bottled water, thus these erratic policy measures have a direct impact on people’s lives. Instead of introducing a blanket policy measure, such as fixing a price for bottled water for the Kathmandu valley, the government ought to investigate the particular complaint of high prices they receive and resolve the issue.

Bidhyalaxmi Maharjan

Bidhyalaxmi is working as Research & Communications Assistant at Samriddhi Foundation. She is a Master of Arts student at Madan Bhandari Memorial College.

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