After almost two years of delays, the bottled water plant at Aruvikkara became operational on Saturday. Run by the Kerala Irrigation Infrastructure Development Corporation (KIIDC), the ₹16-crore facility has launched 20-litre jars that cost ₹60 under the familiar ‘Hilly Aqua’ brand of KIIDC.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated the plant via videoconference. K. Sabarinadhan, MLA, made the first sale.
Of the three production lines, only the 20-litre one is operational at present. This production line can churn out 2,720 twenty-litre jars. The other two production lines — for one and two litres, 750 ml, and 500 ml bottles with a capacity of 3,600 litres per hour each — are expected to be operational soon, KIIDC officials said.
The marketing and distribution of the ‘Hilly Aqua’ bottled water produced at the Aruvikkara unit has been entrusted with Kudumbashree Mission. The mission has formed a six-member team, christened ‘Santhwanam,’ under its Thiruvananthapuram unit for the purpose, KIIDC officials said.
The plant was originally established by the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) on its land near the Aruvikkara reservoir as part of its diversification programmes. The KWA had also decided on ‘Thelineer’ as the brand name.
Construction was completed by February 2019, but the project languished with the KWA failing to obtain the required clearances from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
With delays plaguing the project, the Water Resources Department decided to transfer the plant to KIIDC, the Irrigation Department agency that markets the ‘Hilly Aqua’ bottled water brand. The decision triggered stiff opposition from KWA unions.
Nevertheless, the government went ahead and issued orders in February, 2020, formalising the transfer. The rationale was that it would be imprudent to divert KWA personnel and resources to a “niche market like bottled water” when KWA is responsible for implementing water supply projects worth ₹9,000-crore under Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, Jal Jeevan Mission, and the State Plan.
On May 5, 2020, KIIDC and KWA inked an MoU. Subsequently, the government had sanctioned an additional ₹2 crore for rectifying technical glitches at the plant.
The water supplied by the KWA to the plant undergoes multiple filtration processes and ozonisation before being bottled for the market, KIIDC said.
Nedumangad block panchayat president V. Ambili, Aruvikkara panchayat president Kalathara Madhu, Kudumbashree district mission coordinator Shyju, KIIDC managing director N. Prasanth, and chief engineer Terrence Antony were present.