Green tribunal raps Himachal PCB over pharma pollution in Sirsa river

Published on Jun 29, 2021 12:59 AM IST

The Bench said such failure of statutory duties is at the cost of public health and protection of environment, for which the chairperson and member secretary of the PCB owe an explanation, which may be furnished before the next date of hearing, which is October 5

An analytical study report revealed that the common effluent treatment plant treating industrial effluents at Baddi did not meet the norms. (Representational photo)
An analytical study report revealed that the common effluent treatment plant treating industrial effluents at Baddi did not meet the norms. (Representational photo)
By, Shimla

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has come down hard on the state Pollution Control Board for failing to check discharge of toxic effluents from pharmaceutical companies into Sirsa river that flows through the Baddi industrial area.

In an order passed on June 23, the principal bench of the green court had observed, “We find that there is gross failure on the part of the state Pollution Control Board to act as per the public trust doctrine to prevent discharge of toxic effluents containing harmful residue of antibiotics in water, posing a threat to aquatic life.”

The Bench said such failure of statutory duties is at the cost of public health and protection of environment, for which the chairperson and member secretary of the PCB owe an explanation, which may be furnished before the next date of hearing, which is October 5.

An analytical study report submitted by the state PCB revealed that the common effluent treatment plant (CETP) commissioned to treat industrial effluents at Baddi did not meet the norms.

The concentration of residual antibiotics such as Ciprofloxacin and Ofloxacin was 1,139 and 348 times, respectively— higher than the prescribed limits.

The report said samples drawn from several places show antibiotic discharge into the surface water and subsoil water, which is very dangerous for humans and animals as it may lead to antibiotic resistance, reducing chances of recovery from infections.

“Since 100% random test positivity has been found in the study, it appears that the whole lot of polluting antibiotics are being discharged onto the surface and subsoil water, which is worrisome,” observed the NGT, adding that the PCB officials cannot hide behind the fact that the Ministry of Forests, Environment and Climate Change (MoFECC) had not revised the standards for residual antibiotics.

The tribunal directed that pending finalisation of standards by MoEF&CC, the state PCB lay down standards by itself under Section 17 of the Water Act and the ministry needs to expedite the process of finalising the standards in the interest of protecting the environment.

A joint committee comprising a nominee of the ministry, Central Pollution Control Board, SPCB and district magistrate has also been directed to file a report on violations and remedial actions taken within three months.

A report on the performance of individual pharmaceutical units, particularly regarding the removal of residue of active pharmaceutical ingredients as well as by the Common Effluent Treatment Plant, is to be submitted in three months.

The report will also take into consideration the number of pharma units connected to the CETP and those discharging effluents directly into the drain and the river and affecting the chemical and biological quality of the Sirsa and Sutlej rivers.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

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