The Delhi High Court has taken note of hospital waste handling in the national capital during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Protocols outlined by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for disposal of waste such as swabs and testing kits ought to be “scrupulously followed”, the High Court told the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led state government. This followed a petition by Pankaj Mehta, who alleged swabs were “thrown out in public” and “tests were being carried out over a pile of used swabs for COVID-19.” The bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan said the High Court could be reapproached if the direction is not followed.
The Delhi government, for its part, disputed the claims made in the petition. It said CPCB protocols for the handling of hospital waste are in place.
The handling of hospital waste is a major pollution and sanitation issue in India. In 2018, India generated 550.9 tonnes of medical waste daily, a figure anticipated at the time to grow by seven percent annually.
This, of course, came before the COVID-19 pandemic. As The Times of India reported earlier this year, “COVID-19 presented a unique challenge before the country where it has currently to deal with unestimated [sic] amount of biomedical waste…exclusively from dedicated COVID hospitals, quarantine centres and home quarantine facilities in cities/towns and district/block headquarters.” Exacerbating the issue is the fact that biomedical waste handlers faced understaffing issues amidst a heightened workload.
As previously reported by Health Issues India, “medical waste, because of the circumstances in which it is generated, necessarily must be handled and disposed of properly. The risk to public health is too great for this not to be the case. While India has initiated policies to govern the disposal of such waste, the need is to ensure compliance from all quarters of the health sector and avert a biomedical pollution crisis.” COVID-19 heightens the importance of proper handling of hospital waste – and adherence to CPCB guidelines is a must.