Ax hangs over polluting Indian production plants

The Indian Pollution Control Board (PCB) is considering closing up to 50 manufacturing plants for flouting environmental standards, local media report. And the clampdown could hurt some big names in Indian pharma, with Dr. Reddy's Laboratories and Matrix Laboratories reportedly on the hit list.

The PCB reviewed 50 pharma and chemical plants in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh this week and is reportedly planning tough actions against the worst offenders. According to media reports, the companies that risk having production facilities forcibly closed also include Hetero Drugs, SMS Pharmaceuticals, Sri Krishna Pharmaceuticals and Granules India.

"These were among the 48 units reviewed on Tuesday. Most of these units have come under the scanner for discharging polluting effluents, which is against PCB norms," a "highly placed source" from the PCB told The Times of India. A few more units are reportedly overproducing materials or manufacturing drugs without a license. The PCB is expected to meet to talk about these plants before the end of the week.

Reports of a PCB clampdown come as India wrestles with the balance between industry growth and environmental control. Several months ago, the PCB called for the closure of 12 production plants, only to see the decision overruled by its own appeals board within days. The Andhra Pradesh state pollution body backed the overturning of the proposed closures. And the state organization is now reportedly pushing for a loosening of restrictions placed on pharma ingredient plants in the region.

The Deccan Chronicle reports that a committee formed by Andhra Pradesh authorities ruled in favor of lifting a ban on the expansion of pharma ingredient facilities. A ban was imposed in 1996 to stop the rise in pollution from plants in an industrial belt. The Indian government--which faces pressure to boost bulk drug output to compete with China--now has the report for consideration.

- here's the Times of India article
- check out the Deccan Chronicle piece