Sun Pharma factory pollutants within Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary poses threat to humans, birds; claims study
Chennai: Drug major Sun Pharma is likely to fall in the limelight as a study conducted by the Chennai Climate Action Group and Community Environmental Monitoring recently confirmed that India's oldest Bird Sanctuary is threatened by the industrial solvents from both ground and surface downstream of the drug factory.
The findings also contradict claims by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and Sun Pharma that the factory is a zero liquid discharge facility. Dichloromethane is declared as a solvent used by Sun Pharma to manufacture tizanidine, stated Prashant J, member of Chennai Climate Action Group, addressing a press conference.
According to a media report by The New Indian Express, the study revealed that Sun Pharma's factory inside the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is contaminated with industrial solvents, which is likely to cause adverse health diseases for both humans and birds.
Four common industrial solvents, used in pharmaceutical manufacturing, were traced in ground and surface water samples including irrigation well, a pond, and a stream carrying rainwater run-off from the plant.
Pollution from Sun Pharma flows via ground and surface water through a small pond called Sitheri to the Pudupet Thangal and Hanumanthakuppam Eri before reaching the Madurantakam eri. Farming in more than 1000 acres of well- and canal-irrigated cropland in Malaipalayam village has reportedly been abandoned because of water pollution.
The samples were tested at Hubert Enviro Care Services in Guindy, which is an accredited laboratory by the National Accreditation Bureau for Testing (NABT) and Calibration of Laboratories (NABL) and State Pollution Control Board's empanelment. Solvents including dibromochloromethane, dichloromethane were found in all three water samples while tetrachloroethene, and toluene were found in a water sample taken from the pond.
For instance, for years the villages surrounding Sun Pharma factory have been moving complaints pertinent to reduced agricultural production with concerned authorities but to no avail. As per a villager, all his irrigation wells have become defunct due to pollution from the drug factory. Subsequently, the study confirms the allegations made by local villagers that Sun Pharma has been polluting the water resources inside the bird sanctuary.
Commenting on the same, Dr. Vishvaja Sambath of Community Environmental Monitoring told TNIE, "The fact that Sun Pharma is allowed to operate illegally inside a wildlife sanctuary and discharge toxic chemicals into the sanctuary's wetlands reveals that the Forest Department and the TNPCB are not doing their job."
TNPCB Chairman AV Venkatachalam told the daily that the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has already formed an expert committee to undertake a pollution study in Vedanthangal.
"The wetlands surrounding the Vedanthangal tank are key to the health of the bird sanctuary. Polluting these wetlands is like poisoning the food source of the tens of thousands of birds that come here every year," stated M Yuvan of the Madras Naturalists Society.
Calling for legal action against forest department and TNPCB officials for dereliction of duty, the Chennai Climate Action Group has written to the National Board of Wildlife urging it to reject Tamil Nadu's proposal to denotify major portions of the sanctuary.