GUWAHATI, June 16 - The Covid-19 pandemic has created a unique challenge for the government and organisations concerned on the biomedical waste disposal front, with the contagion triggering a spurt in the volume of waste.
There is a lot to deal with in terms of rising volumes of biomedical waste (BMW) exclusively from dedicated Covid hospitals, quarantine centres and home quarantine facilities across the State.
The Central Pollution Control Board has laid down guidelines and specified scientific ways to collect, transport and dispose of such waste and the state pollution control boards ensure adherence to those guidelines while monitoring and regulating the entire process.
An official in the Pollution Control Board, Assam said the Common Biomedical Waste Treatment Facility (CBWTF) of Fresh Air at Panikhaiti collects all covid-related waste from the hospitals of the city including GMCH and MMCH. However, according to guidelines, the PPE kits should be disposed of (buried) by the hospitals at a proper place.
According to Partha Pratim Pathak, Director Fresh Air, �If one has to go by the projection and current rapid increase, it will be quite an alarming situation if efforts are not put in place not just in the medical and essential setup, but also for the waste disposal and management process and readiness to handle increased Covid-19 as well as regular waste.�
Pathak further said, �In the initial period when cases were less, management of waste was going on in a smooth and well-controlled manner. Waste generated in hospitals was autoclaved, but with increasing numbers of COVID patients, the majority of the resources are being put into managing the patients and supplies around treatment. As such, even in this city with all facilities, managing the waste and its segregation is becoming a challenge.�
Resources would also have to be put towards gearing up and scaling up to be COVID-ready and fit, especially during the next few months, he said adding, �Whereas in the current situation it�s already getting difficult to segregate waste, movement of waste to destruction and disposal facilities with the expected rise in covid cases, this is likely to become a bigger issue. We are investing to scale up, but will need further state support to become ready to manage the increase if the cases keep growing in the current or at a higher rate.�
Administrative focus, efforts and also financial assistance will need to be diverted to waste management and proper destruction and disposal. While cities like Guwahati still have access to centralised units to manage and handle the waste generated, areas in upper Assam and other districts of the State that are following deep ground burial of waste procedures, may actually have another crisis to manage during and post monsoons as the floods will make this option no longer feasible.
However, there is a wide range of technology available and accessible in the State to tackle the waste even with a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases.
�A range of technologies are accessible in the State for various applications and end goals. Next-gen Advance technology as bipolar ionisation and plasma technology, HHO-based incinerators to methods using unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor and disinfect and products based on established UV-C technology, ozone technology, anti-microbial-based protective films can be mobilised in the State and the region along with the conventional sanitizers, spraying machines, fuel-based machines to manage and destroy the waste generated in compliance with the CPCB-laid-out norms and guidelines,� said Ruchika Kuthari, channel partner of Kankyo Cleantech.
�Plasma technology is a proven and practical technology to disinfect air and surfaces. This bipolar ionisation could actually be the most effective weapon in the war against COVID-19 and in the past it has already proved effective against SARS, norovirus and several types of influenza. It�s a very well-adopted technology in the developed countries with widespread use by various medical, health centres and hospitals,� she added.
�Top priority should be given to adequately increased quantities of biomedical waste and waste coming from temporary quarantine centres as well as from public. The biomedical waste should be safely treated and preferably incinerated, making sure that they pose no risk for further infections and pollution at any level of collection, processing or disposal,� said Dr Sanjay K Gupta, a global consultant on waste management.