Govt intervention spares pharma units from closure

Last Updated: Thu, Jul 12, 2012 19:41 hrs

An attempt to hold the nearby pharma manufacturing units responsible for the alleged chemical pollution of a rivulet and a tank connected to it at Hyderabad by the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) has been stalled by the state government yesterday.

The board had reportedly prepared a list of 14 units that are located in the catchment areas of Jillelavagu rivulet for issuing closure notices based on the recommendations of a task force set up by it. However, the board was not allowed to proceed with the closure move following the intervention of the chief minister's office based on its own feed-back, the officials said.

The units are run by several companies, including Aurobindo, SMS Pharma, Hetero Drugs. “We have not received any notices from the board. We will react if they issue notices,” said K Nityananda Reddy, vice-chairman, Aurobindo, and the head of the state bulk drug manufacturers association.

However, as the 14 units have escaped the threat of closure for the time being, the board now has a difficult task ahead in terms of fixing up the responsibility for the chemical contamination of the rivulet besides proposing remedial measures before the Andhra Pradesh High Court by the end of this month. The PCB initiated steps to take action after the high court issued notices to the board on reacting to a petition filed in connection with the chemical contamination of the rivulet.

The chemical contamination of water in the said rivulet is a fact that is difficult to deny, say authorities. However, it is equally difficult to point fingers at the pharma units for the same as they have been following the mandatory procedures, including the shifting chemical waste to an effluent treatment plant, according to a senior official connected to the state environment department.

It is another thing that the authorities concerned are not willing to look beyond the usual suspects because the burden of responsibility and finding a solution ultimately befalls on them, sources said. According to a government source, there were chemical dumps unloaded on open ground by the chemical and bulk drug units that existed in the 70’s, when there were no strict regulations on the disposal of chemical waste.

Now these chemical dumps are fully mingled with the soil to the point of no trace across 4-5 km radius in Jinnaram mandal on the city suburbs, and has been a perennial a source of chemical contamination during the rainy season, sources said. A chemical analysis of the ground water across this region had also shown the traces of hazardous chemicals, they said.

“We don’t know what to tell the court in the given scenario. Even if we name these companies, they will have an opportunity to inform their own side of the story to the court,” the official said.

Meanwhile, the Visakhapatnam district revenue officials on Thursday issued closer notices with immediate effect to five pharma companies located in the Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City (JNPC) at Parawada. Keeping in view the public health in general, the district collector issued notices to Mylan Laboratories, Vegesna Laboratories, Auctus Pharma Private Limited, Vijay Organics Limited and Acacia Life Sciences.

When contacted, Susanto Banerjee, executive director and head (finance) of Mylan Laboratories Limited, said they were trying to get the details regarding the instructions issued by the district administration. “As far as Mylan is concerned, we are fully compliant with all the laws of the land,” he said.

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