The National Green Tribunal has slammed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board for “not taking very seriously” the directions given by it in March with regard to compliance with the Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2016 by public and private healthcare centres in the State.
The case relates to the handling and disposal of biomedical waste by hospitals in the State, including setting up of sewage treatment plants to treat liquid biomedical waste and segregation, disposal and treatment of solid waste.
The TNPCB in a status report to the NGT had submitted that 365 healthcare facilities in Tamil Nadu were operating without the Board’s consent. Overall, there were 4,307 healthcare facilities in the State and 3,475 of them had been issued authorisation under the Rules. These include 357 government hospitals and 3,118 private hospitals.
“As on date, it is found that, 365 healthcare facilities are operating without consent, out of the applied 4,307 healthcare facilities,” the Board said. Of these, 51 are in the government sector. There are also 95 healthcare facilities in the government sector that are operating without authorisation, it submitted. The Board informed the NGT that in multiple meetings held earlier in April, officials were instructed to facilitate the government healthcare facilities to apply and obtain consent of the TNPCB at the earliest.
While the Board in its status report submitted details of these facilities and how these facilities were treating sewage and trade effluents, it failed to provide details of the quantum of biomedical waste being generated and how it was being treated, as sought by the Bench.
The Bench comprising Justice K. Ramakrishnan and expert member Dr. Nagin Nanda came down heavily on the Board for failing to comply with its directions.
“This cannot be treated as compliance report. They have not mentioned the total quantity of biomedical waste generated by hospitals, how they are treated and what is the method being adopted and who are the non-compliant units and the action taken against those who are not complying with the rules,” the Bench said.
It said the Pollution Control Board was “least concerned about the health hazards that has been caused on account of failure to implement the rules by the hospitals.” The Bench then directed the Tamil Nadu government and the TNPCB to file a detailed report showing the number of hospitals, healthcare centres in the State, and how many were complying with the rules, and if any mechanism was provided for supervising them. It also wanted to know the mechanism for supervising non-compliance of rules and what action is taken by the authorities.
Directing the report to be filed within one month, it said “failure of this will result in this tribunal taking serious action against the officers of the Pollution Control Board by imposing penalty on them.”
The petitioner, Jawaharlal Shanmugam, had submitted before the NGT that most of the government and private healthcare institutions did not have consent to operate and authorisation to deal with hazardous substances as per the rules. Neither has action been taken against the violators, he submitted.