The Comptroller and Auditor General has criticised the railways over its waste management system in almost all sectors from stations, coaching depots, maintenance and production units as well as bio-medical waste generated in its hospitals. The CAG report on Waste Management in Indian Railways was presented in Parliament on Monday.
It also pointed out that there is no single body or agency in the Indian Railways solely responsible for handling waste management related issues, adding that there is no system of dedicated fund allocation specifically for waste management.
“Despite an assurance to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for setting up Engineering and Health Management directorate at the zonal and at the divisional level, compliance by the Indian Railways (IR) was partial. “Accountable entities at the railway stations, divisions and at the zonal level were not constituted in 38.60% of the stations test checked. In 59 stations out of 109 selected for audit, directives of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for obtaining Consent to Establish (CTEs) from related State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) were not complied with (as of 31 July 2021),” the report stated.
The report also said the national transporter failed to fully comply with directives of the NGT for implementing 24 verifiable indicators for monitoring of waste management at 36 major stations. In 65 other major stations selected, the progress on implementation of verifiable indicators was not encouraging, it said.
“Segregated waste collected from pantry cars and trains with on board housekeeping services (OBHS) was not unloaded in secured bags in 45% test checked stations. In 86% test checked stations, waste collected from pantry cars or OBHS trains was not dumped in separate assigned dustbins,” the report said.
It also found non-compliance of the rules prescribed storage and labelling of hazardous waste in 102 units (out of 131 selected) remained a potential threat for the environment and people engaged in these units.
It was also critical of the railways for failing to ensure the basic condition of segregating bio-degradable and non bio-gradable waste. Facilities for management of solid waste such as wet waste processing, material recovery facility, provision of composting plant, waste segregation and recycling centres were not provided at 70% of the stations and 90% of coaching yards selected for audit.
“Effluent Treatment Plants/Sewage Treatment Plants (ETP/STPs), though planned for commissioning in 19 major coaching depots and 40 workshops, were not commissioned as of March 2020. Slow progress in providing water recycling plant and automatic coach washing plant defeated the objectives envisaged in the Indian Railways Water Policy, 2017,” it said.
The CAG also pointed out that the railways had failed to ensure provision of secured room with reference to bio-medical waste rules for storage of bio-medical waste in 64% test checked hospitals. Further, in the absence of requisite equipment for treating bio-medical waste, 15 hospitals managed waste disposal departmentally endangering safety of public health, it added.