Citizens’ concern on management of bio-medical waste including Covid-19 waste in the state

Naba Dutta, Secretary, Sabuj Mancha

Kolkata 14 July 2020

The Hon’ble Chief Minister, West Bengal and
Minister, Department of Health and Family Welfare, West Bengal
Nabanna, Howrah

 Sub : Citizens’ concern on management of bio-medical waste including Covid-19 waste in the state   

Dear Madam,

We are very much concerned to experience that in spite of presence of adequate central infrastructure in the state, there are serious lapses in management of bio-medical waste (BMW) including COVID-19 waste in the state. It is strongly felt that existing human and infrastructural resources and functioning of the monitoring body is not adequate to cope up with the situation.

A huge proportion, more than 75% of bio-medical 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 good amount of valuable but contaminated recyclable waste is being salvaged directly from the HCUs and going into the unscrupulous business channel. On the other hand, a large proportion of soiled contaminated waste is getting mixed up with the municipal waste due to sheer negligence. Also there are instances of redirection of waste on the way to the CBWTFs. There are several hot spots in several towns of the state, particularly in Kolkata, Howrah and Siliguri. One can easily find that used contaminated BMW items are being rearranged and repacked for further inclusion in illegal market. Some are being recycled in completely unhygienic and polluting manner.

We are also very much concerned regarding management of COVID-19 waste, which are being generated in the processes of diagnostic, quarantine, treatment and management of COVID-19 patients or suspected patients. CPCB guidelines dated 18 March 20 is not being given due importance.  It is understood that there is tremendous pressure on infrastructure and activities of the government in controlling outbreak of COVID-19.  But if the task of management of related waste is not given the same priority, the crisis will deepen, infection will spread further.

As experienced even in the large government hospitals, COVID-19 waste is not properly segregated. Double layer bags are not being used. Dedicated trolleys for carrying of such waste separately are not being used. Even labeling of the bags and the trolleys are not found. There are ample chances for such waste to get mixed up with other BMW or even general municipal waste of the HCUs.   

Another important issue is that such waste is being generated beyond the HCUs – in quarantine camps and home-care units.  Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) are in charge of collection of such waste adhering to the CPCB guidelines. But practically very little arrangement has been made to collect such waste from the quarantine centres.  In case of home care units, the arrangement appears nil. A huge number of patients and suspected patients are now in home care. ULBs are maintaining records and information of the same and tracking their treatment at least in a limited way. But any dedicated arrangement of collection of COVID-19 waste is absent. Perhaps you have seen the media report dated 13.7.20 – how a full set of PPE is thrown away in undesignated open space in Kolkata. Such lapses cannot be overcome unless management of waste is not given due importance and widespread awareness is not generated.  

We suggest the following interventions to improve the present situation of management of BMW including COVID-19 waste –

1.      Develop coordination among the Dept of H&FW, WBPCB, ULBs, HCUs, laboratories and sample collection centres, sewage treatment facilities etc. to develop uniform approach towards handling, collection, transfer and treatment of BMW including COVID-19 waste, strictly following the Bio-medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 and CPCB Guidelines dated 18th March 2020 in this regard.
2.      Develop awareness among all the health workers, municipal workers, and common citizens regarding handling of COVID-19 waste. Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials should give more importance on handling of waste as being given for precautionary steps.    
3       We request you to kindly institute an enquiry and thereafter a permanent vigilance structure under the authority of WBPCB to ensure safe management of bio-medical waste and COVID-19 waste in the state. Accordingly ‘Surveillance Team’ at all ULB level may be formed to oversee the COVID-19 waste handling, collection, transportation, treatment and disposal. 
4       Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) should be provided to health care workers at all levels including workers of sewage treatment facilities.
Hope you will kindly consider the above recommendations.

Thanking you,

Naba Dutta, Secretary, 
Sabuj Mancha, Contact No. 98731172060

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Jul 16, 2020

Prajnaparamita Duttaraychaudhuri

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