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A Toxics-Free Future


Truckloads of trouble: Bio-medical waste in open raises infection risk in Delhi
NEW DELHI Ranjeet Kumar, a garbage collector, arrives early every morning at the garbage dump near Nangloi Railway Station. These days, he is chary about directly handling the trash in the dhalao there. For eight days now, he said, he has found biomedical waste packed in cardboard boxes dumped alongside the municipal waste at the dhalao.

“It must be being brought at night,” said Kumar, combing through the solid waste. “I have been cautious from the beginning and steer clear of the biowaste mixed with regular garbage, but many others aren’t. They often tear the cardboard boxes and let out the hazardous waste.”

Used face masks, face shields and other hazardous biomedical waste thrown into the dump mixes with the municipal solid waste from nearby colonies, leaving trash collectors at the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus infection. The locals surmise that the biomedical waste is dumped at night or early morning by a quarantine facility or a hospital.

Vinod Sharma, programme officer at Toxics Link, an NGO dealing with environmental poisoning, confirmed seeing the biomedical waste on Wednesday during a survey on plastic pollution. He said the dumping appeared to be a large-scale violation that could not be stemming from just one medical facility.

“If you look at the quantity, it’s clear this is not coming from just one hospital or a quarantine facility, but from several,” noted Sharma. “Either this is being done illegally or the rules about disposal of biomedical hazards are being blatantly disregarded. This is a serious health risk to the sanitation workers and waste pickers and could well lead to community transmission of Covid-19 too.”

Dinesh, who lives in a temple adjacent to the dumping site, said that he generally opens the shrine for people around 4am and has seen a truck come and dump cardboard boxes at the dhalao. “I take a bath around 3.30am and before I throw open the temple for early morning worshippers, I have spotted the truck bringing the hazardous waste,” he said, adding rather ruefully, “I have informed police, but as you can see nothing has been done.”

TOI tried to contact North Delhi Municipal Corporation but received no response.