Shri C K Mishra
Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MEFCC)
Govt of India
Dear Shri Mishra,
It is reported widely that your Ministry is thinking of relaxing the environment impact appraisal norms for bulk drug units. I sincerely hope that these reports are incorrect.
From what I have observed over the last decade or so, in and around Visakhapatnam, the bulk drug industry is by far the most polluting among the several categories of industry.
The promoters of most drug manufacturing units have no respect for the health of the local communities nor have they covered themselves in any glory about their safety record. Around 30 to 40 accidents have occurred in the drug manufacturing units here during the last few years, resulting in the death of scores of workers.
In the case of several new bulk drug units, the promoters appoint their favourite consultants to prepare Environment Impact Appraisal studies (EIA) for their projects, based on falsified information, so as to somehow secure the required statutory environment clearances. I have come across several such EIA studies in which paragraphs after paragraphs were stolen from reports on entirely different kinds of industrial units elsewhere and such misleading EIA reports were used at public hearings. I and several others had brought this to the notice of several of your predecessors seeking their exclusion from MEFCC’s list of accredited EIA consultants but, for reasons best known to your Ministry, no meaningful action had been taken. This shows that many bulk drug manufacturing units have much to hide from the public.
In these parts of Andhra Pradesh, there is widespread public dissatisfaction about the high levels of pollution that the bulk drug units cause and the adverse impact of such pollution on the health of the people. The foul smell that these units generate, lack of industrial safety, inadequate waste treatment facilities and collusion with the regulatory agencies collectively characterise the kind of operations carried out in these units.
In this connection, I have enclosed here a research study (“Impacts of Pharmaceutical Pollution on Communities and Environment in India, Feb 2016) on the specific subject of pollution caused by the pharma units in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. I have extracted below one para from this report that sums up the concerns.
“people living in the vicinity of dirty pharmaceutical manufacturing sites, who are often poor and reliant on subsistence farming, are those whose health is at most immediate risk from the toxic effluents and API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients)-laden waste being deposited in their rivers, lakes, groundwater and fields”
Against this background, it surprises me that your Ministry should bow down to pressures exerted by the influential pharma industry associations and grant them undue procedural relaxations that cut at the root of the crucial environment impact assessment process. Apparently, your Ministry is more concerned about the profitability of the pharma industry than the welfare of the people st large.
Under Article 48A of the Constitution, “the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment”, an obligation that your Ministry cannot afford to ignore or abridge. The Environment (Protection) Act has its genesis in this Article. To the best of my knowledge and understanding, the Act does not empower your Ministry to do anything that will dilute this obligation. By granting relaxations in that respect for the pharma units, as reported, I feel that your Ministry will be committing a breach of this Constitutional obligation.
I may also point out that any unit that pollutes either air or water will effectively be poisoning the lives of the people who depend on the same. It will amount to a criminal offence punishable under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). If your Ministry, by consciously encouraging the pharma units to cause such pollution, will be abetting that criminal offence.
In the recent years, I had brought to the attention of the Central investigating agencies the links that exist between the promoters of some pharma units and the companies that figure in the Panama/ Paradise overseas companies of dubious antecedents. I hope that your Ministry will tread cautiously in dealing with such companies who may have exerted influence on the government in this matter.
I request your Ministry to ponder over what I have stated above and refrain from granting any relaxations in subjecting the bulk drug industry in respect of the required statutory environment impact assessment procedure.
E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to GOi