CPCB directs states to track Covid-19 waste lifecycle, avoid spillage

Published on May 08, 2020 12:15 AM IST
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By, Mumbai

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has asked states to track Covid-19 waste disposal, check spillage and ensure proper segregation of the waste.

The CPCB has created a digital tracking system and will share the application with the states. The app can monitor the lifecycle of waste from collection, segregation, transportation and incineration by geo-tagging each process and submitting details on a common platform. Details will be monitored by state pollution control boards, said CPCB, adding that the boards were informed on Wednesday.

“All waste generators, transporters, and those handling treatment facilities will be asked to register on the app,” said Prashant Gargava, member secretary, CPCB. “Generators will have to key in location details from where the waste is collected and declare the number of yellow coloured bags (marked specifically for Covid-19 waste) and amount quantity handed over. Transporters will confirm how much quantity they have lifted, and the same procedure will be followed at the treatment facility,” he added.

On April 21, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had raised concerns about possible environmental hazards due to improper Covid-19 waste disposal and directed the CPCB to ‘incorporate best practices through continuous supervision and monitoring’. Apart from creating awareness at the state and district level, CPCB was directed to develop a software to compile data in an online format by using a digital tracking system to log Covid-19 waste.

“We have also observed that out of 2.7 lakh health care facilities (HCFs) identified, only 1.1 lakh HCFs are authorised under the Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016 so far. There appears to be a need for further revision of guidelines to cover all aspects, not merely institutions but also individual households... any unmindful deep burial without adequate safeguards can adversely affect the groundwater and pose danger to health and safety of people,” read the order passed by the NGT bench, headed by chairman Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel.

“Common treatment facilities are reporting that they are receiving mixed waste in yellow bags, especially from quarantined homes, at major cities like Mumbai and Delhi,” said B Vinod Babu, nodal officer, waste management, CPCB. “The biggest problem is segregation as waste segregators are afraid of catching the virus. We have already told states to conduct programmes, webinars and awareness drives at all levels. The same has been communicated to expert committee members as per NGT directions,” he added.

HT had reported on April 8 that not more than 50% of total Covid-19 waste collected by workers was being segregated at source, as per Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials.

According to BMC, Mumbai is generating 800 to 1,000 kg of Covid-19 waste per day. However, data from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) shows the quantity to be between 4,000 to 5,000 kg for the city in the first week of May. Between March 22 and 31, the quantum of waste ranged between 500 to 600kg per day. It rose to an average of 1,500 kg during the first three weeks of April and 2,200 kg during the last week, MPCB data showed. There have also been reports of personal protective equipment (PPE) dumped or burnt openly. “There is little improvement in segregation at source but the process remains tough across containment areas. However, the civic chief has asked ward officers to implement necessary steps, including penal action for those violating waste treatment norms,” said a senior official from BMC’s solid waste management department.

Waste generators include all hospitals, HCFs, quarantine camps, self-isolation homes and containment zones, added Gargava. “The data from the application will help identify gaps in the system, avoid spillage and ensure accountability,” he said. “If there is any discrepancy, the state board can know how many yellow bags were collected, status of deep-burial pits at landfills or adequate incinerators available for disposal etc,” said the member secretary.

States will have to take a call on the extent of penal action, said Gargava. “Provisions under the biomedical waste rules would be applicable for those violating the process,” he said.

Evidence of transmission of the Sars-Cov-2 virus through waste has not yet been established, said Babu. “However, studies have indicated the possibility of aerosol transmission with the virus surviving for a limited period on PPE. This puts waste handlers at risk and we need to be extra cautious,” he added.

CPCB has revised its Covid-19 waste management guidelines thrice so far to incorporate developments arising from an increase in cases and quarantined areas in major cities. “HCFs have even been directed to disinfect sewage discharged at each establishment. NGT also wanted us to revise guidelines with respect to individual households. We are working on that, and additional directives will be issued soon,” said Gargava.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Badri Chatterjee is an environment correspondent at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He writes about environment issues - air, water and noise pollution, climate change - weather, wildlife - forests, marine and mangrove conservation

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