A negative impact of the Covid-19 period has been the negligence in the management of bio-waste in the country.
Doubts in following CPCB guidelines for Covid treatment
A large number of observers, like members of prominent NGOs, members of doctors’ forums and several stakeholders have been concerned about the treatment/management of bio-waste generated from Covid positive and suspected persons. They think this is one of the major infectious elements - responsible for the rapid spread of the pandemic.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guidelines given on March 20, 2020, and a revised guideline published on July 21, 2020, for handling, treatment and disposal of waste generated during treatment/diagnosis/quarantine of Covid-19 patients has stated the need for proper segregation of wastes with different colour coated bags for different items. For some cases, it has also emphasised the need to use double layered bags to prevent leakages, to use dedicated bins for different items, mandatory labelling of bags/containers, and to use dedicated trolleys for collecting bins and bags.
It has also been mandated that the inner and outer surface of containers/bags and trolleys should be disinfected with 1% sodium hydrochloride solution daily and workers should be deputed separately for collection of biomedical waste. There are some additional separate guidelines for sample collection centres, quarantine camps, and homes or home care facilities. But many observers think that bio-waste disposal is not being carried out in a satisfactory manner in several Indian states.
Organisations and persons express their concern
A few days ago, Naba Dutta, General Secretary, Sabuj Mancha, an environmental organisation, wrote a letter to the Chief Minister of West Bengal pointing out the weak functioning of bio-medical waste management - including Covid-19 waste management. In the letter, it was mentioned, “A huge proportion, more than 75% of bio-waste, generated in the health care units (HCUs) is not going to the Common Bio-Medical Waste Treatment Facilities (CBWTF). A scrutiny of records of most of the HCUs, including the government hospitals will reveal that the amount of waste being transferred to the CBWTF vehicles does not at all match with the number of occupancies in the hospitals. BMW Management Rules, 2016, is being violated severely at ground level.”
A similar view has been expressed by Dr. Sajal Biswas, General Secretary, Service Doctors’ Forum. Biswas points out that private agencies have been outsourced a significant amount of bio-waste management jobs. In many cases, these jobs are not completed on time. Moreover, the number of new quarantine and isolation centres increasing, mis-management of bio-waste has also taken worrying proportions. He suggested that the government health department should be more vigilant regarding this.
Dr. Arunava Majumdar, former Director, All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, said that there are six private agencies involved in bio-medical waste management in West Bengal. But with the spread of the Covid 19, bio-waste management began to face challenges in the state.
By nature, bio-waste is different from general municipal waste. Again, Covid related bio-wastes are more hazardous and infectious as compared to other bio-wastes. The collection process of Covid related bio-waste is not easy for private agencies. Therefore, the local government has to take responsibilities for the primary collection. Then these can be handed over to private agencies.
Negligence by people and improper management of waste by agencies may create an alarming situation. Photos of Covid-related wastes like used mask, used PPP and such lying on the roads have been circulated by both mainstream and social media. This may increase infections. Proper vigilance by governments at the centre and states is needed.