- A volunteer group found discarded biomedical waste during a cleanup drive
- The city civic body has promised to find the perpetrators
- NGT had asked Uttarakhand to implement the guidelines on biomedical waste
The problem of waste in India is not restricted to solely solid or liquid waste generation and its management. Management of several other categories of waste such as Biomedical waste, electronic waste and construction waste is woefully ill in India as the levels of awareness regarding the handling of these are low, even among civic bodies. In Dehradun, Biomedical waste is being disposed of in the open in many areas of the city, primarily by small private clinics. A student activist group called Making a Difference by Being the Difference (MAD) has drawn the attention of the civic body to the crisis.
Biomedical waste has been an irritant to India’s cleanliness policies for many years as numerous incidents of not handling biomedical waste in accordance with the rules have come forward. The Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016 have a set of guidelines for hospitals, private clinics and any healthcare activities for proper disposal of waste generated by these places. Unfortunately, the practice of treating Biomedical waste like any other waste continues rampantly, reiterating the need for enforcement of the rules.
The incident at Dehradun occurred on September 10 when volunteers from MAD, who were going about their weekly cleaning up activities spotted syringes, bandages and discarded blood packets near Araghar Chowk in Dehradun. On spotting these medical items, the cleanup volunteers gathered them and rushed to the Dehradun Municipal Corporation (DMC) office. Being a Sunday, the DMC office had nearly nil officials and the ones present assured the group the due steps would be taken. But members of MAD were not convinced.
The 2016 rules clearly state biomedical waste must be treated and disposed separately and under no circumstances should they be mixed with other waste. But the civic body does not seem to take this matter seriously, said Karan Karpoor, member of Making a Difference by Being the Difference.
Biomedical waste in Uttarakhand has already been identified as a priority area of concern by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). In July 2016, the Green Tribunal directed public and private hospitals in Uttarakhand to collect, segregate and dispose Biomedical waste as per the 2016 rules. The NGT also suggested that the government should impose an environmental fine of Rs 50,000 on hospitals or clinics which did not adhere to the proper rules of Biomedical waste disposal.
The concern for MAD members is that dumping of Biomedical waste casually in the streets sets a dangerous precedent which other private clinics may choose to follow. Further, the homeless, stray animals and scrap collectors are at risk if casual disposal of Biomedical waste is allowed to continue. Dumpyards are regularly visited by these people in search of items which can be sold. Given their hazardous nature, Biomedical waste can be the cause of various life threatening diseases, hence the strict guidelines related to their disposal.
We have begun looking into the matter and the perpetrators will soon be identified. Biomedical waste disposal must be done as per the government’s guidelines and action would be taken against those who violate the norms, said Dr Kailash Gunjyal, Senior Municipal Health Officer, Nagar Nigam, Dehradun.
The incident shows that biomedical waste is still a huge waste related problem all across India, because the lack of awareness and infrastructure is still visible, as is the lack of responsibility in small private clinics which do not adhere by the guidelines. Uttarakhand has two plants to treat biomedical waste, but the Central Pollution Control Board estimates that at least two more are required to treat biomedical waste generated from the state’s hospitals, clinics and various other health checkup centres and sites. The two new biomedical waste treatment plants are yet to come up and with the increasing number of new clinics and private hospitals are making it difficult for the state as a whole to tackle the problem of biomedical waste. Now that the issue has been brought to the city civic body’s notice, it remains to be seen what steps the DMC takes to immediately ensure stoppage of casual disposal of biomedical waste.
We will definitely look into the matter as it is a serious issue. The NGT order must be complied with at all costs. Bigger hospitals have been known to comply with the orders, but if smaller private clinics are not adhering to the NGT orders or biomedical waste rules in general, we will take steps to ensure that they do, said Dr Gunjyal.