Biomedical waste in India is a serious health and environmental hazard. Despite having a separate legislation for last ten years to handle this kind of waste, it is surprising to note that most medical facilities have failed to manage their waste in a safe and environmentally sound manner. The article looks at the reasons for this failure and also the role that the government can play in setting it on course.
Biomedical waste in India
According to the available data the country produces around three million tones of biomedical waste annually and every year there is 8% growth in the generation of medical waste. A closer look also makes it clear that not even half of this total waste generated is being treated and disposed off in an environmentally sound manner. This calls for some serious soul searching and should be a cause for concern for all directly connected with its management but unfortunately only a handful of NGOs and media persons are constantly trying to investigate and bring the issue in public domain.
The data published by Central Pollution Control Board (as presented below) noticeably reflects that out of 73,975 health care facilities in India, over 40000 hospitals/facilities are not in possession of the required permission or the authority to generate such waste but they continue to function with impunity. The government figure itself indicated that approximately half of the waste generated daily is left untreated, meaning more than 5 lakh tones of untreated biomedical waste annually.
The issue of poor or non-management of medical waste has very serious implication on both human health and environment due to the nature of the waste and its ability to infect any other waste coming into its contact. This can be a potential cause for serious health risk to larger population and in many cases is responsible for an epidemic.
Source: Toxics Link, newsletter No.34 October 2008