Threat of serious health hazards looming large over major parts of Jammu region

All brick kilns operating without mandatory clearance
Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Nov 17: Threat of serious health hazards is looming large over major parts of Jammu region due to the failure of the Government to scientifically handle huge quantity of bio-medical waste being generated by the health institutions. Moreover, illegally operating brick kilns have been compounding the situation right under the nose of the concerned Government functionaries.
As per the official figures available with EXCELSIOR, there are around 763 health institutions including diagnostic centres (both Government and private) across the Jammu region. All these health institutions generate 856 kilograms biomedical waste every day but only 300 kilograms of biomedical waste is being treated every day in the common biomedical waste treatment facility established in the private set-up in Samba district thereby leaving 556 kilograms of biomedical waste untreated every day.
“The common biomedical waste treatment facility is catering only 350 health institutions in Jammu, Kathua, Samba, Udhampur and Reasi districts of Jammu region while as there is no scientific treatment facility for remaining 413 health institutions”, sources said while disclosing that majority of the hospitals in the rural areas of the province either don’t have bio-medical treatment facilities of their own or linked with the common biomedical waste treatment facility.
“This clearly indicates that 556 kilograms of biomedical waste every day from 413 health institutions is becoming source of serious health hazards for the people of major parts of Jammu region”, sources remarked while holding absolute non-seriousness on the part of Health Department authorities responsible for the prevailing situation.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, which provide for regulatory frame work for management of bio-medical waste, were first published by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in the year 1998.
However, last year these rules were reframed to ensure improvement in the collection, segregation, processing, treatment and disposal of biomedical waste in an environmentally sound management to reduce impact on the environment and human health.
Accordingly, all the States including Jammu and Kashmir were directed to ensure strict implementation of these rules to achieve the objective behind their reframing.
As per the provisions of Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2016, the General Administration Department Vide Order No.874 dated July 7, 2017 re-constituted State-level Advisory Committee to oversee the implementation of rules and review all related matters. Moreover, vide another Order No.875-GAD dated July 7, 2017 District Level Monitoring Committees were constituted to oversee the implementation of rules at the district level.
“However, these steps have failed to yield the desirable results till date as the Government became complacent after framing these committees instead of ensuring thorough deliberations and then coming up with the mechanism to ensure scientific disposal of entire 856 kilograms of biomedical waste every day”, sources regretted.
The non-serious approach towards the burning issue is notwithstanding the fact that National Green Tribunal (NGT) had last year observed that collection, transportation and disposal of bio-medical waste by different health institutions in Jammu and Kashmir was not in accordance with the law, sources informed.
“The operation of all the brick kilns without mandatory environmental clearance during the past two years is compounding the situation”, they said while disclosing that there are 269 brick kilns in Jammu division with maximum concentration in Jammu, Kathua and Samba districts but none has obtained environmental clearance despite the fact that in view of EIA Notification of Union Ministry of Environment and Forests such a clearance is mandatory.
Following EIA Notification, District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) headed by Deputy Commissioner was constituted in each district of the State for grant of environmental clearance to the brick kilns. However, all the brick kilns have been functioning without mandatory clearance that too right under the nose of the DEIAA and State Pollution Control Board, which regulates the establishment and operation of brick kilns under Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.
No doubt most of the brick kilns obtained stay orders from the courts when the concerned authorities initiated legal action against some of them but no serious efforts have been made for vacation of stay. “It seems that air and water pollution being caused by the brick kilns is not an issue for the concerned authorities”, sources remarked.
Actually, there was political intervention behind allowing the brick kilns to function without mandatory clearance before their owners obtained stay orders, they said and hoped that Government will wake up from the deep slumber and vociferously project its view point before the High Court when a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking closure of brick kilns will come up along with other writ petitions in the next few days.


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