Immediately notify pharma effluent norms: NGT to govt

The National Green Tribunal has told the Union Environment Ministry to immediately notify the standards for effluent discharge by the pharmaceutical industry, pulling it up for not doing so.

It also ordered the shutting down of industries in Himachal Pradesh’s pharmaceutical hub of Baddi that don’t meet central and state pollution board standards.

The crucial order came Wednesday, more than two years after the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change notified draft norms for permissible effluent discharge by amending the Environment Protection (Rules), 1986 — before dropping these norms in its final notification.

The tribunal directed that the standards proposed in the draft notification should be followed, pending finalisation by the ministry, “in view of serious consequences of unregulated discharge of API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) residue to the detriment of environment and public health”.

The tribunal was hearing a plea on the alleged discharge of active pharmaceutical ingredients into the Balad, Sutlej and Sirsa rivers in Himachal Pradesh by pharma industries in Baddi in Solan district.

Baddi is one of the largest pharma hubs in the country. More than 270 companies operate in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh area.

Reports filed by the State Pollution Control Board and committees set up by the tribunal found as many as 97 units non-compliant. Residue of antibiotics like Ciprofloxacin, Azithromycin and Ofloxacin were higher than the standards proposed in the January 2020 draft notification.

The NGT order read: “As regards pollution other than that generated by the pharma units, we reiterate our earlier direction of taking remedial action as per law by closure of polluting units till compliance and fixing accountability for past violations, following due process.”

Pulling up the Union ministry, the green tribunal said: “Draft standards were formulated and notified on 23.1.2020 i.e. more than two years ago, based on study by the experts. Regulatory mechanism is such important issues cannot remain in abeyance for indefinite period on the ground that the MoEF&CC is unable to finalise the draft standards even after two years,”

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