The green court on Friday pulled up premier medical institutions in the capital, including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), for not complying with bio-medical waste rules and causing health and environmental hazards.
“It is somewhat shocking that all these nine hospitals are government hospitals, including the most premier institute of the country, All India Institute of Medical Sciences,” a bench headed by national green tribunal (NGT) chairperson justice Swatanter Kumar said in an order.
The other hospitals in the court’s list are Safdarjung Hospital, Lala Ram Swaroop Institute of Tuberculosis and Allied Diseases, Lady Hardinge Medical College and Associated Hospitals, Sucheta Kriplani Hospital, Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Hindu Rao Hospital, and Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital.
AIIMS said it is handling its bio-medical waste as per prescribed norms. “To say that AIIMS is non-compliant would be wrong. There were certain shortcomings and we are working on addressing that,” said D.K. Sharma, medical superintendent, AIIMS, adding he hadn’t yet seen the order and would comment further only after reading it.
The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) had filed a report in NGT accusing the nine hospitals of not following rules on biomedical waste disposal.
To avoid future hazards resulting from improper disposal, and “keeping the precautionary principle in mind”, the green court has set up a committee to look into the issue and prepare a report.
This committee will be headed by an officer not below the rank of additional secretary who will meet with the institution heads within one week.
The committee will decide on the measures to be taken by the nine hospitals. The hospitals will be required to implement its suggestions within a month.
The member secretaries of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and DPCC will be members of this committee too, the court said.
The bench warned the nine hospitals that they would be liable for prosecution, without further notice, if they did not follow the directions of the order issued on Friday.
“It is further directed that in the event of default of any of the directions contained in this order… as liable for proceeding under the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, the DPCC and CPCB shall launch prosecution against them without any further notice,” it said.
K.T. Bhowmik, additional medical superintendent at Safdarjung hospital, said proceedings were still underway in the case and hence the court’s judgement wasn’t final. “The hospital structure was constructed in 1950s while the new laws are retrospectively applicable since the nineties. We have asked the CPWD (Central Public Works Department) for land to set up the effluent treatment plant,” he said.
The court said a month after the committee issues directions to the hospitals, a special inspection team will visit them to check on compliance. The team will comprise the member secretaries of CPCB and DPCC, a representative of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board and an independent bio-medical waste disposal and management expert, it said. The expert is to be nominated by the additional secretary rank official in the committee.
“This committee shall conduct a personal survey of all these hospitals and place a comprehensive report before the tribunal as to whether they are still non-complying with the directions contained above,” the order said.
Bhowmik said the time given wouldn’t be enough. “It will take time for institutions to purchase equipment and set up mechanisms in place. While these are important steps that need to be taken, it cannot be done in four weeks,” he said.