If you thought the water you get is the same as what the VIPs in Bhopal do, brace yourself for a nasty surprise.
While the source of the water is the same for everybody, yours definitely isn't 'treated' as good.
A routine query posed by HT to Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials gave rise to some uncomfortable revelations.
As it turns out, the civic body goes the extra mile to safeguard the health of VIPs in certain areas by providing them water treated with sodium hypochloride (commonly known as hypo).
The lesser mortals among the city’s 24-lakh population, on the other hand, get water treated with chlorine.
The BMC has nine water treatment plants, of which one is 'special'.
The Shyamla Hills water treatment plant enjoys the privilege of supplying water to the chief minister's bungalow and Raj Bhavan (the governor's official residence), besides the households at Shyamla Hills and TT Nagar.
While liquid chlorine is used as the primary disinfectant in the other plants, the blue-eyed one employs sodium hypochlorite – a chemical that’s several notches safer for consumption as well as usage. It’s also six times more expensive than chlorine.
When asked to comment on the matter, BMC executive engineer CS Kavalkar said, "We use liquid chlorine at eight water treatment plants, but hypo is used at Shyamla Hills in view of VIPs’ health."
"In August 2011, chlorine gas had leaked from the BHEL water treatment plant, situated near the legislative assembly building. After that, we were instructed to use hypo instead of chlorine. Hypo contains only 10-15 per cent chlorine, therefore making it less hazardous. Even in the case of a leak, it wouldn’t affect anybody's health to a great degree. As hypo is more expensive, we use it only for VIP areas," Kavalkar added.
MANIT chemistry professor Savita Dixit couldn't agree more on the benefits of using hypo.
She says: "Chlorine is a disinfectant that used to filter water. However, it reacts with water to produce compounds like trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids – which can be a veritable health hazard. Sodium hypochlorite, on the other hand, is a very good disinfectant and its byproduct – HOCL –actually helps fight against bacteria and fungi. Hypo is safer than chlorine."
Oncologist Shyam Agrawal opines that the government should start using hypo for everybody, not just VIPs.
"The byproduct of chlorine is harmful, and regular use could cause health hazards like gastric problems, ulceration and even cancer," he says.
Social activists and other public figures also expressed shock that BMC was supplying two kinds of water to residents in the city.
"The BMC shouldn't differentiate between VIPs and common people. If hypo is being used because it is safer for VIPs, they should use it at other water treatment plants too," former mayor and Congress leader Vibha Patel said.
Abdul Jabbar, a social activist, was more vehement in his protests.
"Why is the government doing this when it promised to shun discrimination? This is a case of the BMC adopting double standards – it's a crime. If they are spending more money on treating water for VIPs, why are they charging the same water tariff from us?"
The water provided to Bhopal VIPs is treated with sodium hypochloride, which is much safer than regular chlorine
Sodium hypochloride costs six times more than chlorine