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COVID-19 | 12,600 kg bio-medical waste cleared in J&K since March

With the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic around the globe, there has been a surge in the hazardous biomedical waste(BMW) adding to the existing piles. The biomedical waste refers to the waste generated during the diagnosis, treatment and immunization of human beings or animals during testing or in health institutions. Owing to coronavirus pandemic, the waste generatedwith the increase in number of infected persons, the use of masks, gloves, PPE kits, samples, urine bags, syringes etc. also increased manifold and had to be treated as biomedical waste. The sudden rise in waste generation also called for sound management and disposal to knock-off the ill effects on environment and humans. India's pollution watchdog, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) stressed upon the extra precautions to be taken by sanitation workers and healthcare facilities to handle BMW by issuing various guidelines.

Jammu and Kashmir State Pollution Board also issued a draft model for Biomedical Waste Management at Village Panchayats and Subdivisions. The plan stated that as per Bio Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 categorizesthe biomedical waste into four colour categories namely yellow, red, white and bluebased on disposal pathwayand accordingly stipulates requirement of segregation prior to disposal.

It was clearly mentioned that the segregation, collection, pre-treatment and storage are the essential responsibilities of the biomedical waste generators like hospitals, clinics, quarantine centres, isolation wards etc. So, for the safe disposal of waste Gram Panchayats, PanchayatSamitis, Group-Gram Panchayats, Gram Sewaks, Block/Tehsil level Offices, along with Zila Parishad were asked to implement over-all waste management at village level. The waste-management hierarchy is shown below:

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) amended the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 and told every Health Care Facility to establish a bar code system to track waste being sent out of the premises and disposed through Common Bio-medical Waste Treatment facility (CBMWTF). This system works as an important tool to track the waste from its source of generation to ultimate disposal. The specifications were mentioned by the CPCB to use barcode labels on colour coded containers for handling bio-medical waste. 

It stated, "The bar code should have a colourmark (in Yellow/Red/White/Blue) in the form of block of size at least7 mm X 7 mmor Textof font size 12 specifying the colour of the BMW in the bags or containers. The colour mark or Text shall beplaced at the top left corner of the bar code label."

And a proper format was issued for daily report of BMW Management as shown below:

Particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, there are around three BMW treatment facilities out of which one is situated in Samba district of Jammu whereas two are in Lasjan and Lassipora areas of Kashmir.

The Anmol Health Care Facility in Village Rakh Rara of Samba district is currently handling around 9-11 quintals of BMW on daily basis from different districts of Jammu region. Vicky, one of the workers said, "Our Waste treatment facility has 2 incinerators and around 5 vehicles for collection of waste from different districts. Earlier, we were receiving around 4-5 quintals of waste daily which has doubled due to COVID-19. The vehicles collect BMW from private and government hospitals which is incinerated immediately upon arrival. Each batch takes around 15 minutes to burn completely and the entire waste has to be incinerated within 24 hours at around 1,000 °C to 1,200 °C."

Similarly, in Kashmir, Clean City Waste Management Company at Samurbugh, Lasjan and Kashmir Health Care System, IGC Lassipora are handling BMW but the COVID-19 waste is currently incinerated only by the latter.

Talking to Jammu Links News, Neelu Sharma, Prl. Scientific Officer, J&K Pollution Control Board informed that the department is following a well-coordinated system to deal with BMW generated from Covid-19. She added that around 12,600 kg BMW has been disposed of since the COVID-19 outbreak with proper precautions taken by the waste handlers and sanitation workers. She also told that as per the CPCB guidelines, the quantification and tracking of waste is done through CPCB's biomedical waste-tracking mobile application called COVID19BWM.

The amendment in rules to reduce BMW burden and a smooth functioning system ensures that there is no compromise on safe disposal of COVID-19 waste.

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Hardeep Bali