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Monday, Feb 18, 2002

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Eco-friendly scheme for pharma units

Jayanta Mallick

KOLKATA, Feb. 17

THE Indian Drug Manufacturers' Association and the United States Asia Environment Partnership (USAEP) have initiated a programme to "explore clean technology applications and eco-friendly management practices'' for the domestic pharmaceutical industry, which has over 10,000 bulk drug and formulations units.

According to Mr Arup Mitra, eastern Regional Director of USAEP, the first such joint programme is on in West Bengal under which a pilot study - by Mr Chetan Trivedi, a US-based consultant — has been done in four select units near here. He will make region and unit-specific recommendations for implementation purposes.

"Seventeen bulk drugs are in the red list (most polluting), according to the domestic regulatory authorities,'' Mr Mitra said.

However, he said, the application of pollution reduction, control technologies and resource recovery measures had shown in the US that they yield handsome returns in the form of environmental branding, export access and cost reduction.

Mr Trivedi — who was involved in the design of the waste water treatment plant for Burroughs-Welcome Ltd, Hoechst Pharmaceuticals and Gharda Chemicals — told Business Line that the substitution of chemical solvents with water-soluble solvents reduced 90 per cent of polluting emissions.

The technologies are also available for effluent treatment. However, the management of sludge or solid waste produced by a drug unit — laden with metals such as mercury, arsenic and lead - is somewhat complicated. "Either the metals have to be bound together and dumped in landfills or be incinerated in a controlled condition''.

He felt there should be detailed study on the sludge produced by the pharmaceuticals industry, particularly the bulk drug units.

Among the four stages of operations in a drug plant, fermentation and chemical synthesis activities generate maximum contaminants.

For waste minimisation, he suggested that the exercise of process substitution and R&D at the plant level was necessary.

Mr Mitra said that funds could be provided for installation of pollution-control processes and equipment from overseas agencies such as USAID and the Indo-Canadian Facility Fund besides the Central and State Governments.

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