Amidst the pandemic, India has faced many challenges including the oxygen crisis, insufficient beds, and medicines. Lately, there’s another rising concern, which has been far less talked about. There has been an exponential rise in biomedical waste that is being generated due to covid. This might result in a huge public health threat.
The quantity of biomedical waste generated during the second wave has been more than the first. In Karnataka, the cost of disposal has gone up, from Rs. 10-13 to Rs. 58 per kilo now, excluding GST. On average, the generation of Covid-19 related biomedical waste shot up from 75 tonnes per day in March 2021 to 203 tonnes per day in May.
“We have tied up with the people who handle the medical waste, bio waste, they are handling the biomedical waste, they are the required medical facility,” C. N. Ashwath Narayan, Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka said.
The situation is grim in many districts of Karnataka. In Hassan, biomedical waste generated was around 800 kg to 900 kg a day, before Covid-19. Now, it has gone up to 1.5 tonnes a day. On certain days the waste amounts to 2.5 tonnes. In Ballari and Koppal districts, the biomedical waste generated was around 200 kg a day on average. Now, it has gone up to 900 kg a day.
“Parallelly we are taking initiations in all the areas. So, our corporations, our municipalities, are taking care of that very seriously,” said DV Sadananda Gowda, Union Minister For Chemical and Fertilizers.
The disposal mechanism of biomedical waste isn’t the easiest. However, with the overwhelming increase in quantity, most procedures aren’t being followed. Even the lives of the people collecting these biomedical waste materials have not been easy. They live on the edge of danger as they handle these toxic materials.
Bhargavi S Rao, Trustee, Environment Support Group, said, “As per the law, the biomedical waste has to be further segregated based on the kind of plastics, syringes, needles, and so on and so forth. There are proper guidelines on this but unfortunately, given the scenario, given the speed at which people need to be disposing and working. I’m afraid it’s not happening.”