Syringes, needles, saline bottles, used bandages and gauzes can be found all over the dump yard at Mavallipura, some 35 km from the city. Though there are water tight rules for the safe disposal of biomedical waste, it is obvious that this is not followed.

The dump yard/ landfill at Mavallipura is managed by Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd. The Mavallipura villagers claimed that biomedical waste is not disposed properly. “Sometimes, we find huge bags of bloody gauzes and bandages just dumped along with the other waste. The dogs at the dump yard rip these apart. This is a serious issue, as infections and other diseases can spread unchecked,” said B. Srinivas, member of Dalit Sangharsha Samiti, Bangalore district committee.

Even the Ramky officials at the site, on condition of anonymity, said that the biomedical waste (often bundled in black plastic bags) is dumped with other waste at the site. “Around 10 per cent of the waste dumped here everyday is biomedical waste,” he admitted.

Rag pickers, who segregate plastic from the waste, often pick up saline bottles, rubber gloves and syringes. Their work makes them susceptible to contracting dangerous diseases, since they work with no protection what so ever. Shukur Ali and his family earn a meagre livelihood by collecting plastic waste. They have no idea what biomedical waste is or the risk they are taking by collecting it.

According to the Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, it is the responsibility of an institution generating bio-medical waste – hospitals, dispensaries or clinics – to ensure that such waste is handled without any adverse effect to human health and the environment.

When contacted, senior environment official of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board K.M. Lingaraju said that since hospitals, especially smaller ones, cannot afford the infrastructure for disposal, they are required to tie-up with one of the two biomedical waste treatment facilities in the city - Ramky and Maradi Eco.

“We need to investigate to ascertain where the waste is coming from, whether hospitals are directly dumping here and the quantities being dumped at these landfills,” he said. The KSPCB had received several complaints on such cases in the past and issued notices on the matter. He added that under the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, it is also the duty of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to ensure that biomedical waste does not reach landfills and is treated scientifically.

H. Paramesh, president of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association, said that all registered nursing homes and hospitals have been given a licence by the KSPCB for scientific disposal of biomedical waste. “The hospitals and nursing homes are paying Rs. 5 per bed per month to the two registered companies that collect the biomedical waste.”

He said that stringent action must be taken against those (be it hospitals or the companies) who are not following the guidelines. “Indiscriminate dumping of biomedical waste cannot be tolerated. Those responsible must be pulled up,” he added vehemently.