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Green signal to Hyderabad pharma city or to ash, muck, pollution and misery?

By Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi, Dr K Babu Rao, Dr Lubna Sarwath*
Hyderabad Pharma city being established by the Telangana government is a move towards establishing a toxic city. By going ahead with it Telangana industries minister KT Rama Rao is neglecting the travails of pharma pollution victims. Pharma exports will earn mountains of profits for a few, while Telangana residents would end up with ash, muck, pollution and misery. 
Unfortunately, this kind of development has not been questioned by political parties. Before projecting the Hyderabad Pharma City as an answer to Covid-19 pandemic, the minister needs to prove that the existing pharma industry has indeed improved the health of Hyderabad and Telangana residents. The present pathetic state of alarming spread and governance chaos confirms contrary to the projected claim of the minister.
It is quite unfortunate that during a review on Hyderabad Pharma city, the minister has projected this project as an answer to Covid-19 pandemic. It suggests lack of awareness on corona virus. It would have been better, if they had done a critical review of conditions that led to corona pandemic and listened to the science.
A false promise of putting Hyderabad on the international map through setting up Hyderabad Pharma city ignores the fact that this city is already up there on the international map for several reasons, including severe pharma pollution and existence of anti-microbial resistant bacteria in its water bodies.
Telangana was and is suffering immensely from industrial pollution, particularly by pharmaceutical companies. Our rivers, lakes and ground water are getting polluted severely. Several studies by national and international institutions have shown that hazardous chemicals have completely contaminated our ground water reserves. Several villages, in Medak, Nalgonda, Rangareddy and Mahbubnagar districts, are facing this problem.
The health of villagers is seriously and severely affected. Their livelihoods are vanishing, and in general, poverty is on the rise. At this stage, it would be foolish to invite and establish more pharmaceutical units. Expansion of existing companies is also not recommended.
The Hyderabad Pharma City project at Medipally is a disaster in making. Local people have been opposing this pharma city project. This project has the potential to destroy local natural resources, including agricultural lands, ground water reserves, vegetation, tanks, lakes and other water resources. Pharma city can never be a harbinger of hopes and dreams of local people.
Pharmaceutical companies across the state of Telangana, as experience shows, have negative impact on local economy, eroding resources and destroying livelihoods. Instead of providing and enhancing local employment, they have destroyed local professions and have always been averse to provide employment to local people. Local environment is severely and irreversibly degraded due to effluents and emissions from the pharma industry.
Pharma pollution victims are sadly ignored by the Telangana government, Congress, BJP, Communists, Telangana Jana Samithi and other political parties. Political parties need to question the Telangana government's definition of development which means polluting Telangana's natural resources, pushing rural people into poverty and enabling profits for a few through pharma exports with horribly polluting technologies.
US and European pharma industry has stopped producing many drugs due to severe restrictions on pollution. Pharma industry here is making profits at the cost of nature and people. Who has been better off by pharma exports? What are the pharma products which have been useful, for the ill in Telangana villages? Is the cost of medicine low in Telangana? Is it less than other places?
History suggests that there is no use for the people here with concentration of pharma industry in Telangana. Pharma pollution and unbridled profits was mentioned as one of the factors during Telangana movement.
Pharma pollution victims are sadly ignored by Telangana government, Congress, BJP, Communists, TJS, other political parties
In fact, while inviting new pharma industries, the Telangana industries minister seems to lack understanding and knowledge of a scenario, wherein pharma industries are exploiting local resources, causing injustice to the people of Telangana, with no punishment for pollution and near absence of regulation on their activities.
The industries minister and officials who lack commitment towards democratic governance are also misusing precious public funds by setting up Hyderabad Pharma city facilitating pollution of pristine and virgin areas. There is no improvement in the health index of Hyderbadis and Telangana due to local pharma industry. Damages to the environment, natural resources and people due to existing pharma industries is huge, which would doubled tripled by establishing Hyderabad Pharma City.
It should be noted that the Jawahar Pharma City was established at Parawada near Visakhapatnam with the same objectives as high powered committee (HPC) claiming latest technologies for treating pollution and centralized facilities. Since 2013, there have been 25 major accidents with 23 deaths and 73 severely injured. Polepally chemical SEZ also had several explosions and fires killing workers and damaged local ecology.
The state government should scrap Hyderabad Pharma City project, as per environmental norms, current scenario and people’s aspirations. Telangana people will intensify their agitation against this project. The government should assess the irreversible loss done to the natural resources and to the people of the pharma industry belt.
All political parties should assess the current Telangana growth model. Each of them should make a clear, unambiguous statement on Hyderabad Pharma growth. A fund, starting with Rs 1,500 crore, could be established to compensate pharma industry victims in Telangana, protect public health, livelihoods and local natural resources. In fact, the Telangana industrial policy itself should be reviewed.
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*Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi is with the Citizens Against Pollution, Hyderabad; Dr K Babu Rao is former chief scientist, Hyderabad; Dr Lubna Sarwath is state general secretary, Socialist Party (India), Hyderabad

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