The National Green Tribunal has directed constituting a high level task team at the national level, to supervise handling and scientific disposal of COVID-19 waste in accordance with guidelines issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
A bench led by Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said "At the national level, let a high level task team of Ministry of MoEF&CC, Health UD, Jal Shakti, Defence and CPCB supervise the handling and scientific disposal of COVID-19 waste in accordance with the guidelines."
The bench has also directed Chief Secretary of States/UTs to coordinate the activities of State's concerned departments like of Urban Development, Health, Irrigation & Public Health also closely monitor the scientific storage, transport, handling, management and disposal of COVID-19 waste as its unscientific handling poses a grave threat environment and health of people.
The bench through video conferencing had taken up for hearing a plea regarding remedial action to address the gaps in compliance of the BMW Rules, 2016, as applicable to the disposal of bio-medical waste arising out of handling of COVID-19 disease, so as to ensure protection of environment and public health, in view of potential of such infectious waste adversely affecting public health, concerned workers and professionals etc.
Justice Goel observed "While the BMW Rules generally take care of the situation by way elaborate provisions to deal with biomedical waste generated in dealing with infectious diseases such as HIV, HINI etc, present pandemic has presented further challenge on account of existing gaps in compliance of BMW Rules in terms of capacity to scientifically dispose of generated waste and non-compliance of procedural and monitoring aspects. COVID-19 virus has emerged suddenly and is highly infectious, requiring more precautions compared to other infectious diseases.
The tribunal has also directed the State Departments of Environment and PCBs/PCCs To ensure compliance of Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016 and furnish action taken report to CPCB and CPCB to take further steps and furnish a consolidated report to this Tribunal of the steps taken and the ground status as on 31.5.2020. The report is to be furnished by June 15.
On April 21, when the plea was heard the tribunal had interacted with Member Secretary, CPCB and perused the guidelines issued by the CPCB, last revised on 18.04.2020. The bench expressed the need for revision of the laid down guidelines to address all concerns in the light of best practices and experience from time to time so that all aspects of scientific disposal of liquid and solid waste management are taken care of not only at institution level but also at individual levels (such as manner of disposal of used PPEs, used bags, gloves, goggles, etc., without the same getting straightaway mixed with other municipal solid waste causing contamination etc.), dealing with situations where adequate facilities (like incinerators) are not available, distinct colour guidelines for the bins etc.
Further, the bench addressed the need for reviewing effectiveness of the monitoring mechanism, including securing information by way of electronic manifest system from the handlers of such waste and its online reporting by the State PCBs/PCCs on a daily basis, by developing necessary software. Creating awareness by special awareness programmers, organizing training in concerned Local Bodies, Health Departments, providing workers handling COVID-19 waste with adequate protective gear, adequate coordination with media and other concerned regulatory authorities in the States and the Central Government.
The tribunal said it is already dealing with the subject of addressing gaps in bio-medical waste management generally in O.A No.710/2017, Shailesh Singh v. Sheela Hospital & Trauma Center, Shahjahanpur & Ors. and has given further directions. The bench will now hear the plea on June 22.
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