Waste management has become a major environmental management crisis in recent years, as the magnitude of waste streams increases and grows in complexity due to consumer-based society. Hazardous waste like biomedical waste in particular has been subject to detailed and costly regulations since the early 1980’s, since unregulated toxic wastes were linked with intense health effects in exposed populations at Love Canal, New York and Times Beach, Missouri. Medical care is essential for our life and health, but the waste generated from medical activities represents a real problem of living nature and human world. Improper management of waste generated in health care facilities causes a direct health impact on the community, the health care workers and on the environment. Every day, relatively large amount of potentially infectious and hazardous waste are generated in the health care hospitals and facilities around the world. Indiscriminate disposal of BMW or hospital waste and exposure to such waste possess serious threat to environment and to human health that requires specific treatment and management prior to its final disposal. Unregulated biomedical waste administration (BMWM) is a general medical issue.
This has posed a grave threat to not only human health and safety but also to the environment for the current and future generations. Safe and reliable methods for handling of biomedical waste (BMW) are of paramount importance. Effective BMWM is not only a legal necessity but also a social responsibility. A major issue related to current Bio-Medical waste management in many hospitals is that the implementation of Bio-Waste regulation is unsatisfactory as some hospitals are disposing of waste in a haphazard, improper and indiscriminate manner. Lack of segregation practices, results in mixing of hospital wastes with general waste making the whole waste stream hazardous. Inappropriate segregation ultimately results in an incorrect method of waste disposal. Inadequate Bio-Medical waste management thus will cause environmental pollution, unpleasant smell, growth and multiplication of vectors like insects, rodents and worms and may lead to the transmission of diseases like typhoid, cholera, hepatitis and AIDS through injuries from syringes and needles contaminated with human. Waste management has become a big issue nowadays. It is not only limited to the health care institutions but also challenging to the policy makers. It is mainly due to lack of legal framework implementation at health care institutions. Problem can be easily solved in each health care institution if all these institutions follow national waste management policy. Therefore, each health care institution must be established “Waste Management and Occupational Health and Safety Committee”, and implement the standard waste management the procedures guided by national guideline of health care waste.
Almost 90% of the J& K Biomedical waste ends up in huge rubbish tips, mostly found near the ill equipped medical shops and hospitals, posing a serious threat to human health and the environment. The medical shops that are currently operating in J&K do not know the anything about biomedical waste. It is either dumped in the nearby water bodies or the pit that is found close to these shops and hospitals. Neither, Government of J& K is concerned about these management of biomedical waste. A proper squad needs to deputed to check this menace in order prevent infections and other environmental problems.
All medical shops, private clinics, hospitals and medical laboratories in valley are poorly managed, if at all, without any controls on materials accepted or records kept, and no security. Waste pickers, especially children are often found collecting recyclables without any proper protection measures. In this sense, biomedical waste dump sites pose significant health and environmental threats both to the people involved in the operations and to the wider general public living close by and here it has been grossly neglected.
The most common human health issues that may originate from Biomedical waste are gastro-intestinal, dermatological, respiratory and other types of infectious diseases. The nearby populations can experience diarrhoea, headaches, chest pains, irritation of the skin, nose and eyes and typhoid.
We have Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 in place, but who knows, who cares. Those who have implemented and for those for whom it has been implemented are in deep slumber, as this is again a failure in the state of J&K as they do not need to worry for the fragile nature of environment and the people who are living there.
They do it in the files, they have zero ground work. It is noteworthy to mention that these rules are applied to “All persons who generate, collect, receive, store, transport, treat, dispose, or handle bio-medical waste in any form including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, dispensaries, veterinary institutions, animal houses, pathological laboratories, blood banks, ayush hospitals, clinical establishments, research or educational institutions, health camps, medical or surgical camps, vaccination camps, blood donation camps, first aid rooms of schools, forensic laboratories and research labs, (irrespective of the type and size of the health care facility and their system of medicine), but every one of us knows the real story. A number of hospitals, medical shops have come up across Kashmir. Nobody checks where and how they dump the waste as they know their own failure or they are corrupted to such level they percept it as a standard of their economy.Till date no effective measure had been taken by the hospitals to prevent pollution and infectious diseases from spreading due to poor disposal of biomedical wastes.
The key challenges in bio-medical waste management in the state of J&K include speed of data availability, under-reporting of waste generated and handling capacity, operation of healthcare facility without authorization under Biomedical Waste Management Rules, lack of awareness among various sections of the staff among others. They solution to this problem lies in action not in reporting and blaming one another as has been done by the concerned authorities over the past.
(The author teaches Environmental Science at GDC Bijbehara and is associated with ALACC Naina)