Work out ways to handle COVID waste: green tribunal tells govt, pollution board

National Green Tribunal bench asks CPCB to furnish report on steps taken till May 3 by June 15

Medical staff in Kochi dispose waste generated from a COVID-19 isolation facility. Photo: PTI

The National Green Tribunal on Friday (April 24) directed a team comprising the Centre and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), to supervise handling and scientific disposal of COVID-19 waste in accordance with the guidelines.

The tribunal said that while the Bio Medical Waste Rules deal with waste generated in dealing with infectious diseases, the coronavirus pandemic has presented further challenge in terms of capacity to scientifically dispose of generated waste.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed the Chief Secretary of states and Union territories to closely monitor the scientific storage, transport, handling, management and disposal of COVID-19 waste as its improper handling poses a grave threat rob environment and health of people.

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“At the national level, let a high level task team of ministries of environment, health, urban development, Jal Shakti, defence and CPCB supervise the handling and scientific disposal of COVID-19 waste in accordance with the guidelines,” the bench said.

It also directed the state departments of environment and pollution control boards to ensure compliance of Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016 and furnish action take report to CPCB.

“Let CPCB take further steps and furnish a consolidated report to the NGT of the steps taken and the ground status as on May 3, 2020. The report may be furnished by June 15,” it said.
The NGT said that the COVID 19 pandemic has affected a number of people across the world and more than one-and-a half lakh people have died world over.

Disposal of COVID-19 waste in general bins so as to be part of municipal waste or unscientific handling sewage and other liquid waste without safeguards can also be hazardous, the tribunal said.

There is a need to incorporate best practices in the light of further experience and new thoughts emerging from time to time, apart from continued supervision and monitoring, compiling data in an online format, use of electronic/digital manifest system to track and log COVID-19 waste, it said.

There is also need for creating awareness about the precautions and steps to be taken by all handlers and workers as well as citizens, the tribunal added.

The green panel had on Tuesday (April 21) urged the State Pollution Control Board and Pollution Control Committee to put in serious efforts to mitigate the possible risk of unscientific disposal of the bio-medical waste arising out of the handling of the COVID-19 disease.

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It had raked up the issue of gaps in compliance of the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 which are applicable to the disposal of the bio-medical waste generated out handling the pandemic.

The CPCB on April 19 has issued revised guidelines for management of waste generated during the diagnostics and treatment of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients.