CHENNAI: What has been feared all these days has come true. Besides the Kanchi Kamakoti Child’s Trust Hospital, an additional 21 city hospitals have come under the radar of investigation for alleged pilferage of biomedical waste and will be facing criminal prosecution.
Based on the direction of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) officials have randomly inspected 81 hospitals in Chennai between May 31 and June 30 and it was revealed that 21 hospitals have violated the Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016.
The quantity of biomedical waste generated and disposed of as furnished by these erring hospitals for the period of April, 2015 to March, 2016 does not match the details on the quantity of waste maintained by the Common Biomedical Waste Treatment and Disposal Facility. A variation of whopping 300 kg a month was observed during certain months with certain hospitals.
This submission has opened a can of warms, giving prima facie evidence that a big cartel is operating in the city collecting biomedical waste illegally. A shocked NGT bench wasted no time in ordering the TNPCB to press for criminal charges against the hospitals found guilty.
The list of 21 hospitals being probed include noted multi-specialty hospitals in the city, both private and government.
The TNPCB also submitted that it was investigating what kind of waste had been leaked outside. The inquiry is underway. The bench, comprising Justice P Jyothimani and expert member PS Rao, has lambasted the TNPCB in the open court, asking why the board hadn’t taken action against these hospitals, when it is clearly a criminal offence.
“Biomedical waste and e-waste are most dangerous to environment, if not disposed of scientifically. A hospital ought to pay `39 per kg to the common treatment facility to dispose of the biomedical waste. Instead, the Child’s Trust Hospital has reportedly sold the waste for `49 to a private unauthorised vendor in which case there is a possibility that the vendor will just clean the equipment, repack and release it back to the market. These hospitals are playing with the lives of people,” the bench said.
The tribunal questioned the TNPCB why a police case had not been filed and why the vendor had not been arrested. In reply, TNPCB counsel Yasmeen Ali said the board had issued directions under section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 as amended to the hospital to comply with the norms. But the court said, “not enough”.
Petitioner Jawaharlal Shanmugam argued that the TNPCB had found 21 violators out of 81 hospitals randomly inspected. “There are 3,97,400 hospitals in Chennai. Records of all hospitals should be checked. This is similar to what happened in 2010 related to spurious drug Benadryl cough syrup that was relabelled after collecting expired medicine from the Kodungaiyur dumpyard by Vasantha Enterprises.”