KOCHI: After being at loggerheads with the state government over the management of poll-related biomedical waste during the local body elections, IMAGE (Indian Medical Association Go Ecofriendly), the only medical waste treatment facility in the state, has finally agreed to collect and dispose of the waste. The decision comes in the wake of the direction from the State Election Commission. Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on the state government to set up more alternative biomedical treatment plants in the states to meet the growing demand.
Following the disagreement, officials of the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) held discussions with IMAGE, following which the latter agreed to treat the waste, but on certain conditions. Around 70 tonnes of biomedical waste consisting of masks, gloves, PPE kits, and face shields are expected to be generated across the state as part of the local body elections.
“We informed the authorities that the IMAGE plant has already exceeded its capacity because of the additional biomedical waste generated during the pandemic phase. We agreed to collect it on the condition that biomedical waste generated from the polling booths should be routed through IMAGE-affiliated Covid Care Centres in the locality,” said an official with the agency.
The official said that proper segregation of waste is being insisted upon. The norms of Central Pollution Control Board and Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) for Covid biomedical waste management will also be followed.
Biomedical Waste Treatment Plant at Brahmapuram in limboWith the Palakkad IMAGE facility bursting at the seams, there is an urgent need for another plant. IMAGE has approached the Kerala State Pollution Control Board for clearance to set up the plant. The Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation LTD (KSIDC) has been entrusted with the responsibility to remove legacy waste from the land earmarked for setting up the biomedical waste management facility at Brahmapuram.
“We have submitted applications. KSIDC is yet to begin the process to clear the land at a cost of `1.25 crores. From the information we received, KSIDC has tendered the work and by the end of December, they will hand over the land for preliminary installation works,” said the official, adding that the plant at Brahmapuram will become operational within six months. The official said that currently, the plant in Palakkad is being operated 24x7 to avoid accumulation of waste.
“Our machines may encounter issues and the entire state is depending on this facility. It is high time the government took measures to make the state self-sufficient in biomedical waste management,” said the official. Currently, IMAGE has deployed 72 vehicles for carting biomedical waste from across the state to their facility at Palakkad. “The government owes us around `4.5 crore and we need to pay our contractors to ensure daily removal and disposal of the biomedical waste,” the official added.
Before Covid-19, the daily generation of biomedical waste in the state was around 42 tonnes per day. On Sunday, there was around 64 tonnes of waste generated and the agency could dispose of only 58 tonne. IMAGE is biting more than it can chew at this point, as the entire state is relying on them to handle medical waste.