Mumbai has just earned the dubious distinction of being the only metro without a bio-medical waste treatment facility in the country.
From the looks of it, such a plant seems a long way away. The city is expected to start one such unit against the original plan of three. But the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) are busy passing the buck to each other for the non-starter.
The cat was out of the bag when, appalled by the lack of disposal facilities, the Bombay High Court had directed the MPCB last month to conduct a survey on 330-odd rural hospitals across the state on how they dispose their bio-medical waste and submit the same to the court.
All the bio-medical waste in Mumbai is disposed in Taloja treatment unit, which, according to MPCB, flouts the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) norm. "Mumbai is the only city now in the country without a facility. We can stop sending bio-medical waste to Taloja any day, as the city civic body is supposed to have one for its own. But we cannot force the city into a disaster and purely on humanitarian ground, we are forced to allow this," said regional officer MPCB, Bharat Nimbharte.
It has already been 16 months since July 16, 2005 when the MPCB had asked the BMC to commission a bio-medical waste treatment plant on an urgent basis, which the latter had agreed to. But one year later, nothing has moved. In between, one work order has already lapsed and no work has yet started on the project. On the contrary, the BMC has reduced the number of plants from three to one showing non-availability of land.
"We will have only one plant at Deonar and that will be sufficient," said Additional Municipal Commissioner (City) RA Rajiv. But he puts part of the blame on the MPCB for the delay. "MPCB had pledged that they will tie us up with the service provider after the first work order lapsed. But they have failed to do so," he said.
According to MPCB member secretary DB Boralkar, they have already done their bit. "We have even provided them the details of how they should go about it. What more can we do," he asked.
Officials are now apprehensive that the project may get further delayed once the code of conduct for the early-2007 civic polls kicks in. "Then they will not be able to issue any work order anyway," said Boralkar.