Hyderabad is one of the largest pharmaceutical hubs of the developing world, and his home to a number of small and large manufacturing units. The Kazipally Industrial Area of Hyderabad is one area where many pharmaceutical manufacturing units are concentrated. The Hindu reports that the effluents from more than a dozen pharmaceutical units, is collected in an open well and then taken in tankers to the processing plant situated 20kms away. The open well is not leak proof and contaminates most of the water resources around the industrial area. The antibiotics in the effluents come into contact with bacteria, and will hasten the emergence of antimicrobial resistance in them. The environmental contamination with antibiotics can increase the number of resistant genes in the non-pathogenic bacteria in the environment, and these qualities can be transferred to disease causing bacteria at a later stage.
According to The Hindu, researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden conducted a research on the environmental contamination due to pharmaceutical effluents in Hyderabad. They tested the water released from the effluent treatment plant, and the results were frightening. It was found that 11 drugs were present in high concentrations, and 6 of them were antibiotics. The concentration of an antibiotic like ciprofloxacin was 31,000 times the expected concentration from hospital waste. The discharge of ciprofloxacin from the plant was almost 45 kilograms a day, almost the same amount consumed by the whole country of Sweden in 5 days!!
This shows that environmental aspects of antibiotic contamination has been neglected in countries like India. The state and central pollution control boards should be legally and technically empowered to take corrective actions, if required. The pharmaceutical industry should also be included as partners in this mission, than taking a punitive approach. India is considered as the pharmacy to the developing world, and this has ensured access to essential medicines to hundreds of millions of people. This status should be preserved, but aspects of sustainability should be incorporated into the system.