Developing law on handling and disposal of bio-medical waste in India
Bio-medical waste in simple terms means any waste generated through the process of diagnosis, treatment or immunization of humans or animals from hospitals, veterinary, clinics, research institutes etc. This bio-medical waste contains highly toxic content determined by the risk of causing injury or infection during handling and disposal to the doctors, nurses, washermen, patients, sweepers, hospital visitors and people staying near the hospital area. A major part of bio-medical waste includes needles, scalpel blades, anatomical body parts, blood samples, contaminated body fluids, dressings, catheters, I.V. lines etc.
The cognizance of this issue was first discussed at Bergen, Norway by the World Health Organisation (WHO) office, where the seriousness of improper bio-medical waste management was brought into question during the “beach wash-ups” in 1998. Thereafter, countries started to realize the detrimental effect caused by these bio-medical wastes onto health and environment.
India’s position in handling and disposing of the bio-medical waste today is at a stage of infancy. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Government of India (GoI) for the first time issued a notification titled “Bio-medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules” on 27 July 1998, under the provision of Environment Protection Act 1986 in persuasion of the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of B.L. Wadhera v. Union of India.
The rules were updated to Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 by the then Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar widening the scope for bio-waste management. Recently the same ministry headed by Dr. Harsh Vardhan has amended the 2016 rules to improve compliance and strengthen the implementation of environmentally sound management of biomedical waste in India.
The amendment brought to the rules stipulated in concerns with the environment that the generators of bio-medical waste will stop using chlorinated plastic bags, plastic gloves or any other plastic material with an exemption to the blood bags from March 27, 2019.
(Source: Slide Share)
Some of the salient features of the Bio-Medical Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2018 are:
- All the healthcare facilities shall have to make available the annual report on their websites within two years of issue of this notification.
- The operators of bio-medical waste treatment shall have to establish barcoding and global positioning system for handling these waste as per the directions of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) before March 27, 2019.
- A report had to be compiled and sent by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) or the Pollution Control Committee (PCC) to the CPCB comprising detailed information about bio-medical waste generation of each district, information on health care facilities having captive treatment facilities, information on common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal facilities
- The person having administrative control over the generation of bio-medical waste shall have to pre-treat the laboratory waste, blood samples, microbiological waste blood samples, and blood bags through disinfection or sterilization on-site in the manner as prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) or guidelines on safe management of wastes from health care activities and WHO Blue Book 2014 and then send it to the common bio-medical waste treatment facility for final disposal.
In the case of Haat Supreme Waste Tech Pvt. Ltd. and Others v. State of Haryana and Others, NGT stated that the bio-medical waste being hazardous by its very nature has two important aspects: First, the individual and cumulative impact of establishing and operating such a plant upon the environment and secondly, the regulatory regime that would cover the collection, handling and disposal of the bio-medical waste. Therefore, going as per the new amendment, it has tried to cover up both the aspects. The new amendment tries to ensure the safe disposal, regulate the handling and processing of waste, promotes the protection of environment, and focuses on the strong implementation of the guidelines on the ground. This amendment has brought a certain degree of toughness in the regulatory framework governing the handling and disposal of bio-medical waste in India.
In this entire debate of waste management, one thing is crystal clear that bio-medical waste is one of the most hazardous waste generated by human activities and therefore the safe management of the same is extremely vital for our community and environment. And in order to ensure better health conditions and environmental safety, proper disposal and handling of the bio-medical waste cannot be compromised with.
Author: Anushtha Shrivastava (Researcher at Gati Foundation)