It is not just organic and plastic waste alone that has piled up over the years in the Kodungaiyur garbage dumping yard. Despite biomedical waste management norms in place, the yard continues to receive biomedical waste in various forms. Rules specify that only biodegradable garbage from hospitals and clinics should be sent over to dump yards. But, biomedical waste including syringes — many with needles — injection vials, intravenous fluid bags and tubes, masks, blood-stained cotton swabs and beds are indiscriminately dumped at the yard even today.
A study conducted three years ago by the Central Pollution Control Board found around 50-55 per cent of biomedical waste is collected, segregated and treated as per Biomedical Waste Management and Handling Rules, 2011, while the rest is dumped with municipal solid wastes in the country.
Now, in 2013, the study’s findings could still get endorsement at the Kodungaiyur garbage dumping yard.
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A walk through the dumping yard, amidst mounds of garbage that towered over most houses in the vicinity, led to several spots where biomedical waste has been dumped.
On top of one mound were a number of saline bags with tubes, alongside a few hospital beds. A climb down the mounds led to a swamp where hundreds of syringes and glass vials were dumped.
Several rag pickers, who have first access to the garbage disposed at the yard, said the biomedical waste is dumped along with general solid waste at Kodungaiyur.
“Garbage unloaded from lorries are collected in bags and taken for segregation. We come across different kinds of hospital waste, including syringes and glass bottles,” said 41-year-old Shanthi, a rag picker. Her husband Abu (48) claimed the rag pickers do not collect the syringes. “Sometimes the needles or broken vials pierce our hands or legs,” he said. Another rag picker said he had also come across bags containing blood and that they collected the IV bags and tubes along with the plastic waste for selling.
A former Chennai Corporation engineer said though major hospitals have streamlined their garbage disposal mechanism to an extent, small clinics continued to dump their waste indiscriminately, along with the general waste. Doctors say rag pickers who are exposed to such waste could develop gastritis, gastro enteritis and skin lesions/allergy.
My Chennai My Right, an inititative by The Hindu
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