Water being one of the most essential needs of every human being has inspired “big business” in the market for corporate giants like Nestle, who in turn warp this demand to suit their own profit motives. With the consumption of water increasing on average by 12% every year according to Dr. Memon’s journal, bottled water has gained the lead against tap water with figures that have quadrupled in the past 30 years. Especially in Pakistan as fresh water sources have been increasingly contaminated due to fast-paced industrialization, people have reverted to bottled water to avoid water-borne diseases.
The statement made by Nestle in 2005 is in line with the recent issue of fall in taste and quality of Nestle’s bottled water, that was faced by many customers including Mr. Faisal Qureshi. Brabeck, the then CEO of the company, deemed it an “extreme solution” to call water a basic human right. This statement in the documentary We Feed the World, raised great hue and cry as Brabeck’s rationale for putting a price on water violated the most fundamental concept of human rights. With all due respect, the view that Nestle holds of water gives mineral water companies greater ownership of this drying resource than humans because according to Brabeck, humans do not value anything unless it is priced and hence companies attach a price tag to this resource for the sole reason of wanting to make people value water! If the irony and pseudo philanthropy does not stand out in this scenario, one would sadly accept that Nestle has succeeded in making its claims believable.
In a small Pakistani community of Bhati Dilwan, Nestle has dug a deep well which deprived locals of potable water. “The water is not only very dirty, but the water level sank from 100 to 300 to 400 feet,” Dilwan says. A former village councillor said that the children were falling sick because of filthy water as their share of fresh water is captured by the Nestle to feed its own water market. Such is the state of exploitation practiced by these companies, that has left many without even fresh water to survive on and still these monopolies make claims like pricing helps value water more, when they themselves fail to value human life.
The trend of bottled water consumption has become more popular in the modern-day and age partially due to increasing investigation about the quality of tap water. Especially in Pakistan fresh water has fallen prey to bulks of toxic industrial waste that is decomposed more so in an environmentally unsound manner. However the emerging issue of the quality of bottled water has attracted attention on a long neglected aspect: if tap water was so detrimental to human health, how nutritious is the beverage full of arsenic and other chemicals that we call water?
Another reason behind this rising trend is bottled water becoming a status symbol. It is “cool” to drink water from a branded bottle, as Ed Slade the vice president of Evian himself stated, partially because it presents a healthful image of the person. In the 1970s, this trend soared to great heights in America for the same reason. Madonna’s use of Evian water bottle on stage at her concerts gave the existing popularity a glamorous boost. According to author Charles Fishman, “The global economy has contrived to deny the most fundamental element of life to 1 billion people, while delivering to us an array of water ‘varieties’ from around the globe, not one of which we actually need.” So if what we buy is not really drinkable water, what is it? It is merely another product sold in the market for a price which is much greater than the dollars or rupees we pay. And we will continue to pay this price and the debt in our shrinking water resources will continue to collect, if the difference between fake advertising and reality is not understood soon enough. It is time to wake up before a global famine burns out the scraps of life left on this earth.
Reviewed by Sundas Sajid, Junior Editor – Youth Correspondent