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P A Francis
Wednesday, June 7, 2017, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The Centre had notified the new Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules,2016 in the month of March last year to bring a change the way the country used to manage biomedical waste. Prior to that, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had published a draft of Bio-Medical Waste (Management & Handling) Rules in April 2015 for getting responses from various stakeholders. The 2015 draft rules were an improvement over the draft rules of 2011 which largely remained unimplemented due to non cooperation of the state governments. Biomedical waste generation has been a serious environmental issue the country has been facing for the last many years with sharp increase in the number of hospitals, nursing homes and clinics across the country. Only some large hospitals have a scientific system of managing their waste including biomedical waste in the country now. And most of the nursing homes and clinics have not been following the right practice of handling these highly hazardous waste. In fact some of these nursing homes are still dumping these waste in the roadside bins. The objective is to reduce bio-medical waste generation in the country and also its proper treatment and disposal so as to ensure environmentally sound management of these wastes. The set of Rules will apply to all persons who generate, collect, receive, store, transport, treat, dispose, or handle bio-medical waste in any form. Hospitals and nursing homes generate various kinds of wastes from their wards, operation theatres and outpatient areas. These wastes include bandages, cotton, soiled linen, body parts, needles, syringes, medicines, laboratory wastes, etc. which carry infection and should be properly collected, segregated, stored, transported, treated and disposed to prevent contamination and infection. According to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) gross generation of biomedical waste in India is 4,05,702 kg per day of which only 2,91,983 kg is disposed of, which means that almost 28% of the wastes is left untreated and not disposed finding its way in dumps or water bodies.

According to another report of MoEF almost 53.25% of Health Care Establishments (HCEs) are in operation in the country without adequate authorization from State Pollution Control Boards or Pollution Control Committees which means that waste generated from such facilities goes unaccounted and is dumped without any adequate treatments. Management of BMW thus involves a lot of complexities and a range of issues need to be addressed. The new Rules have definitely cleared certain ambiguities of the previous one but still lacks on many fronts. The first distinction between the new rules and those prescribed in 2011 is their range of application. While in 2011, the 1998 rules were amended to include all persons who generate, collect, receive, store and transport biomedical wastes. Whereas, the 2016 rules bring more clarity by specifying that vaccination camps, blood donation camps, surgical camps and all other HCFs have been included. The second distinction comes with regard to segregation, packaging, transport and storage of biomedical waste in an HCF. The 2011 draft demarcated eight of biomedical waste (down from ten categories in the 1998 notification). The 2016 notification further brings down the number of categories to four. Another improvement in the new rules is in the monitoring sector. While the 2011 rules have no provision for a monitoring authority, the 2016 rules state that the MoEF will review HCFs once in a year through state health secretaries, the SPCB and the CPCB. The SPCB, in its turn, will oversee implementation through district level monitoring committees that will report to the State advisory committee or the SPCB. Moreover, according to the new rules, the advisory committee on biomedical waste management is now mandated to meet every six months. There are quite a few other new provisions in the 2016 Rules. Now the question is the effective implementation of these Rules and that is something to be seen in the coming months.


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