National The cost of cheap drugs The Bollaram-Patancheru region in Hyderabad, Telengana is famous for being one of the most polluted industrial areas in India. The periphery around the area has become so toxic one that 2001 article recommended that “most of the soils should be removed from agricultural production” in Patancheru. There is an increase in higher abortion rates to birth defects and stunted growth in children, as well as greater incidence of skin diseases in the region. In the district of Medak in the state of Telangana, Greenpeace in its several reports has identified that people, animals, crops and land have been afflicted by the pollution of industrial waste. Villagers report many serious health issues, including miscarriages, skin disorders, cancers and intestinal problems. The livestock suffer from the same problems. Most, not to say all, food grown in the village is unfit for human consumption. An inspection report published by CSE in November 2015 noted that most companies in Pattancheru-Bollaram were manufacturing pharmaceutical ingredients for which they did not have permission; using more water than the permitted limit and dumping more hazardous waste than allowed. Two of the units were operating without clearance from authorities.
In the case of the Ghaggar river in Punjab, all along its river course, one can witness foul smell, contamination of subsoil water, spread of water borne diseases and chances of damage of crop due to the presence of industrial chemical waste due to industrial waste from the industries in Punjab and Himachal. Media reports report similar occurrences around the Bhiwadi belt, where pharmaceutical companies discharge untreated effluents into drainages which then seep into the groundwater, making way into drinking water supply and agricultural land, resulting in environmental and health risks of unimaginable proportions.
In many low and middle income countries, weak laws and ineffective regulatory bodies have led to rising incidences of industrial waste flowing into ponds, lakes and rivers. If we examine the causes, the role of the pharmaceutical industry is similar to printing, chemical and paint industries. Pharma effluents contain hazardous chemicals which are leading to antimicrobial resistance or AMR where the human body is resistant to antibiotics, and thus, becomes susceptible to common infections. The very same ingredients used to manufacture antibiotics get mixed up with the bacteria during waste disposal, through our waters. Studies have shown that high levels of antibiotics are found in streams and lakes in the area close to many plant than in the body of human beings. The phenomenon is such that it is assuming the form of a serious public health issue in developing as well as developed countries. Over 700,000 people die every year because of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) all over the world. If this trend persists and resistance continues, McKinsey studies has shown that by 2050, around 10 million people globally will die because of AMR (Antimicrobial Resistance)
It is pertinent to note that New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase superbug (NDM-1), a bacteria, first found in New Delhi’s public water supply in 2008, is resistant to almost all known antibiotics and has spread to over 70 countries in the world.
On the other hand, scientists from multiple institutes having done a detailed study on river pollution concluded that arsenic in the study areas poses potential health risk to the residents and indicates that the “ingestion of water over a long time could magnify the probabilities of cancer. They collected and assessed concentrations of 27 trace elements in surface water samples from 48 sites of waterways (lakes, canals, and tributaries of major rivers) in four states: Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Telangana. Analysis revealed that elements such as chromium, selenium, arsenic, iron, and manganese are the major pollutants, as their concentrations exceeded the acceptable national and international water quality standards in several sites of Vrishabhavathi, Ennore, Adyar, Cooum and Periyar rivers. Further, statistical analysis revealed that the Cauvery, Ennore, Adyar, Cooum and Periyar river basins are affected by various anthropogenic activities, leading to moderate-to-high pollution by arsenic, chromium, manganese, iron, and selenium. According to the scientists, potential pollution sources are industrial waste, sewage intrusion, paint industry waste, and automobile runoff.
Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 31 Oct. 2016 (North to South India: Pharma Firms’ Waste Poisoning Rivers, People & Animals)” →