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NGT Takes Suo Motu Cognizance of Pharmaceutical-Induced Environmental Contamination

NGT Initiates Action on Pharmaceutical Pollution, Involves State Leaders and Regulatory Bodie

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has taken Suo Motu cognizance of the pressing issue of pharmaceutical-induced environmental contamination, highlighting that approximately 43% of global rivers are at risk from Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs). This initiative follows an article dated February 25, 2024, which brought the matter to light.

The NGT expressed concern over the continuous emissions from pharmaceuticals, which pose significant hazards to both the environment and human health. The article also pointed out the limitations of discussions on chemical waste reduction, primarily due to incomplete knowledge about the toxicity of these chemicals to humans.

It was noted that pharmacies often struggle to filter all chemicals used in pharmaceutical production, including solvents, APIs, excipients, additives, by-products, and intermediates. These unfiltered chemicals can cause ecosystem imbalances, leading to widespread chemical pollution.

The news article raises important questions regarding the compliance of environmental norms, particularly by pharmaceutical companies. The Supreme Court has recognized the Tribunal’s power to take up matters Suo Motu, as seen in the case “Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai vs. Ankita Sinha & Ors.” reported in 2021 SCC Online SC 897.

Given the nationwide scope of this issue, the Principal Bench, consisting of Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Dr. A Senthil Vel, has deemed it appropriate to include the Chief Ministers, Member Secretaries of all states, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Dairying and Veterinary Science as respondents.

The Bench has issued notices to these respondents, except the CPCB, which is already represented by counsel, to file their responses at least one week before the next hearing. These responses should detail the compliance of pharmaceutical companies with environmental norms, the regulatory guidelines in force, the number of pharmaceutical companies in each state, and the actions taken against companies violating these norms, as well as proposed measures to prevent environmental contamination from pharmaceutical toxicity.

The matter is scheduled for a hearing on August 20, 2024.

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