Safe disposal of hazardous hospital waste has never received the kind of attention that it deserves, in Pakistan. The same sclerotic attitude towards the disposal of the highly infectious waste being generated at isolation and quarantine centres established for coronavirus patients is being witnessed in the country. Medical and environmental experts have expressed grave concern over the careless disposal of such hazardous waste in view of the fact that that the coronavirus is highly infectious and spreads fast.
The issue is one of the major fears raised by experts and activists during a virtual conference organised on the occasion of the International Earth Day by the Central Standing Committee on Environment of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and industry. Environmentalists present on the occasion said that in developed countries, there is a special system for the disposal of hazardous hospital waste. Unfortunately in Pakistan, even the disposal of the highly hazardous waste related to the coronavirus is being carried out under the routine municipal system of disposing ordinary garbage. They claimed that safe disposal of the coronavirus waste was not part of the SOPs adopted by the federal and provincial governments with regard to the treatment and control of the virus. Expressing fears that the absence of such protocols would be disastrous for human health and environment, these experts stressed the need for putting in place a monitoring system to assess the environmental impact of the conditions obtaining due to the pandemic. They said such assessment would help in proper resumption of activities after the lifting of the lockdown.
The failure to safely dispose of the toxic waste containing the deadly virus would undo all the efforts aimed at ensuring preventive measures. The lockdown being enforced at heavy economic cost will come to naught if there is no safe disposal of coronavirus-related hospital waste. The issue calls for haste.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2020.
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