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Issue 46
, 2013
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A Long Way to Go in Bio-medical Waste Management

Toxics Link
Source: The Indian Express, Date: , 2013

City Municipal Corporations are yet to ensure segregation of waste, especially bio-medical waste into infectious and non-infectious, at source | Rajesh Shetty Ballalbagh

Despite having adequate regulatory mechanisms, bio-medical waste  is openly dumped in garbage containers and drains in Hubli-Dharwad. Flouting of rules brazenly by hospitals and clinics is exposing the public to hazardous waste, which in turn is posing serious threat to public health.

Recently, an amputated leg was found on the road. Burning of solid medical waste near a hospital and disposing of other medicines in an open site show how badly bio-medical waste is being managed in the twin cities.

According to sources in the Karnataka Pollution Control Board (KPCB), 476 healthcare facilities have registered with the Board. Of these, there are 48 government hospitals, two medical college hospitals, 108 veterinary hospitals, 14 Ayush and 1,304 private healthcare units.

Except veterinary and government hospitals in rural areas, who use deep burial pits to dispose waste, all are bound to follow the Bio Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 1998.

However, KPCB district environment officer Vijay Kumar told Express that cases of mixing bio-medical waste with solid waste are still detected.

“As the number of health care units is more, it would be difficult to go and check each unit. But, incidents of flouting regulatory measures have certainly reduced in the last few years,” he said.

The KPCB has authorised Hubli-Dharwad Bio-Medical Waste Treatment (HDBMWT) facility to collect and treat bio-medical waste at a common treatment plant in Tarihal Industrial Area, on the outskirts of the city.

The agency collects around 2,000 kg of solid bio-medical waste daily in five closed container vehicles from all registered hospitals and clinics in Hubli-Dharwad. And liquid waste is  disinfected at hospitals.

Staff crunch is another issue and agencies involved in waste management often pass the buck. In fact, the KPCB district office has only one environment officer.

Kumar, however, said, “Since April, we have issued notices to 30 hospitals/clinics for not abiding by the rule. If we monitor 10 big hospitals regularly, most of the problem is addressed.” Most of the units erred in segregation and they mixed municipal waste with bio-medical waste, while handing it over to collecting agencies, he added.

Of seven major hospitals, KIMS is the main source of bio-medical waste in the twin cities (300 kg). KIMS Director, Dr Vasanta Kamat, said,  utmost care is taken to segregate bio-medical waste.

The hospital has a sewage treatment facility where liquid bio-medical waste is treated. Despite the claims by the director, burning of bio-medical waste was reported on the KIMS premises recently.

HDMC Pourakarmikara Sangha president Gangadhar Tagargunti said pourakarmikas are forced to lift bio-medical waste dumped at garbage containers and open areas in the city. “Our members are not averse to lift it, but they should be offered masks, hand gloves, gum boots and other safety equipment,” he said.

Only 25 per cent Segregation

The bio-medical waste not segregated at source is a headache, said HDBMWT facility manager Riaz M G. Only 25 per cent of the waste they collect is segregated, he added. On disposing waste, Riaz said, “Our plant has a capacity to burn 100 kg per hour. Plastic waste is washed with acid and crushed to power for recycling. All measures are taken to protect the environment and the facility is regularly tested by the Pollution Control Board.”