SPREAD OVER 380 square kilometres in Himachal Pradesh’s Solan district, the Baddi-BarotiwalaNalagarh (bbn) industrial area is one of India’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturing hubs. The region hosts around 500 small, medium and large pharma units and accounts for 35 per cent of Asia’s total medicine production. But rapid industrialisation and a lax attitude towards safe disposal and management of pharma waste have raised concerns about the effects of pollution on the environment and health. The water of the Sirsa river, which flows downstream through Baddi, is black and emanates a foul odour. In Jharmajri village, which has the largest number of pharma units, resident Balvinder Thakur points to an open area where solid waste has been burnt.
The burnt waste, which contains medicine wrappers, flows along with wastewater into a dirty canal nearby. “All of this is going to the river,” he says. Pharma manufacturing units are required to send their solid waste to the treatment, storage, and disposal facility (tsdf). But people in the area allege that pharma units sometimes do not comply with these norms. “To cut down on costs, waste is given to scrap dealers who visit plants. They dump the