A collective of activists in Telangana has taken note of state Industries Minister KT Rama Rao's recent remarks that a vaccine for the coronavirus could come from the upcoming Pharma City at the outskirts of Hyderabad. The group includes dozens of individuals who oppose the project, including locals, ex-MLAs and experts.
Dubbing it a 'toxic city', the activists accused KTR, who is the son of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, of neglecting the victims of pharma pollution and said, "Telangana residents would end up with ash, muck, pollution and misery."
In a press note, Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi from the Citizens Against Pollution, prominent environment activist Dr Lubna Sarwath and Dr K Babu Rao, Former Chief Scientist of the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) in Hyderabad urged KTR to scrap the project.
"It is quite unfortunate that in a review yesterday (Friday) on Hyderabad Pharma city, the Minister for Industries has projected this project as an answer to the COVID-19 pandemic. A false promise of putting Hyderabad on the international map through Pharma City ignores the fact that this city is already on the international map for several reasons, including severe pharma pollution and existence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in its water bodies," the statement said.
"Telangana state was and is suffering immensely from industrial pollution, particularly by pharmaceutical companies. Several studies by national and international institutions have shown that hazardous chemicals have completely contaminated our groundwater reserves," it added.
The activists also highlighted the issue of several villages in the districts of Medak, Nalgonda, Ranga Reddy and Mahabubnagar, where locals have been complaining of pharma pollution for years.
"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," they said, adding, "Hyderabad Pharma City project at Medipally is a disaster in the making."
Several locals at the site where the project is coming up have been up in arms against it, as they claim that it would disturb their livelihood.
"Pharmaceutical companies across Telangana, as experience shows, have a negative impact on the 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," the statement by the activists added.
They also expressed disappointment that the issue was being ignored by all political parties in the state, including those in the opposition.
The activists further wrote, "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? Pharma pollution and unbridled profits was mentioned as one of the factors during the Telangana movement."
Pointing to the recent gas leak accidents in Visakhapatnam that killed 14 people and injured many, the activists demanded that the Telangana government review its industrial policy.
"A fund, starting with Rs 1,500 crores has to be established to compensate pharma industry victims in Telangana, to compensate and protect public health, livelihoods and local natural resources," the statement added.