The country is busy fire fighting the Covid-19 virus and trying to contain its spread but the virus may be proliferating through the tons of hazardous waste its treatment and prevention has created and most of which remains unattended across India.
Only a few major cities across India have sufficient facilities for segregation, collection and the safe disposal of the biowaste while in villages and small towns where the facial masks, PPE kits etc have entered into thanks to the disease, the biowaste generated is nobody's concern.
The used masks litter around and could also be finding their way into a huge informal recycling chains that can sell these as cheaper versions of the original and end up posing threat to human life.
Taking the example of Delhi, the Indian capital never had sufficient waste management facilities to tackle its growing mound of garbage, and now COVID -- the used PPE kits, masks, used oxygen pipes, disposable utensils, bed linen and clothes of the survivors and &andvictims -- has added tremendously to the problem.
The national mission director of the Swachh Bharat Mission (urban), VK Jindal, told Delhi municipalities early last year that “even waste generated from each household with a Covid patient has to be collected as biomedical waste.” He said that this waste is meant to be “disposed off in an incinerator (specialized furnace) like hospital discards & not be mixed with general kooda (garbage) which goes to the landfills.”
Now operators of the two BMW waste treatment facilities in Delhi are saying that they are struggling with the “copious amounts of waste coming in and their furnaces could shut down due to the pressure.”
Delhi has two such facilities -- Biotic Waste Solutions Private Limited in Jahangirpuri and SMS Water Grace BMW Private Limited in Nilothi in west Delhi. The two, together, have a capacity of 56 tonnes.
SMS Water Grace gathers BMW waste (Covid and non-Covid) from government hospitals like Safdarjung Hospital and LNJP, private hospitals, laboratories, testing centres, dispensaries, quarantine centres and isolation facilities in six districts of Delhi -- west, southwest, central, Shahdara, east and northeast.
Biotic waste solutions caters to north, northwest, New Delhi, south, and southeast districts. It gathers BMW waste from Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, AIIMS and Lady Hardinge Medical (LHM) College etc.
SMS Water Grace’s Amit Nilawar says that before COVID-19, his facility operated at 50% capacity. Now it’s running at 90-110% capacity because of the extra Covid waste coming in and this has created a risk of the furnace melting down.
His facility is burning 13 tonnes of bio-medical waste (Covid and non-Covid) every day as compared to the six tonnes previously.
Nilawar said, “Our working cost has gone up. Plus, we have had to hire more people and vehicles to pick up the waste. This has put a financial strain on us.”
Similarly, Vikas Gehlot of Biotic Waste Solutions said his facility was processing 14 tonnes of bio-medical waste each day before Covid-19 came. “The amount is almost 22 tonnes now. The pressure is growing. We have requested the Delhi Pollution Control Committee to send some of this waste to waste-to-energy (WTE) plants for few days so that we can do preventive maintenance here,” he said.