46 per cent increase in COVID-19 biomedical waste generation in India in April- May 2021, says CSE’s new statistical analysis

In 2017, 7.2 per cent of the country’s biomedical waste remained untreated.

In 2019, the figure rose to 12 per cent -- “Unacceptably high numbers”, says the report. Bihar and Karnataka the “worst offenders” 

New Delhi, June 12, 2021: Even as biomedical waste (BMW) generation in India grew from 559 tonnes per day to 619 tonnes per day between 2017 and 2019, the percentage of BMW treated dropped from 92.8 per cent to 88 per cent. Bihar (where 69 per cent BMW remained untreated) and Karnataka (where 47 per cent BMW was not treated) have been the worst offenders. 

During the same period, the number of authorised healthcare facilities in the country almost doubled to 153,885, from 84,805. But the number of unauthorised healthcare facilities also rose from 57,010 to 66,713. 

On the other hand, while the number of hazardous waste generating units in the country increased by 3.5 per cent, hazardous waste generation has gone down by almost 7 per cent. 

These statistics, brought to light in an e-publication released here on World Environment Day by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), highlight the challenges posed by improper disposal of dangerous wastes—in particular biomedical waste—in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. State of India’s Environment in Figures 2021, as the e-publication is titled, is an annual compendium of data and statistics on key issues of environment and development. 

The report also shows a significant increase in COVID-19-related biomedical waste generation during the second wave. It says: “India produced 139 tonnes per day of Covid-19-related biomedical waste in April 2021, as the country braced against the second wave. In May 2021, the figure escalated to 203 tonnes per day, an increase of 46 per cent.” 

Releasing the e-book, CSE director general Sunita Narain said: “There is drama in numbers, especially when these numbers give you a trend—are things getting better or worse. It is even more powerful when you can use the trend to understand the crisis, the challenge and the opportunity.” 

She added: “In an age when the quality of data available to us is usually poor—it is either missing, unavailable publicly or of questionable quality—a collection like this can be immensely helpful, especially for journalists. Improving the quality of data can only happen when we use it for policy. Take the case of the ongoing pandemic. Just consider how we have suffered in this past year because we do not have sufficient or accurate data on tests, or the number of deaths, or serological surveys, or genomic sequencing of the variants. In each case, data would have been (and is) critical for policy making.” 

For data card/s and associated graphics related to the subject of WASTE: https://www.cseindia.org/page/soefigures2021 

Find more such statistical gems in State of India’s Environment in Figures 2021. 

For a copy of the e-book, or for interviews, questions etc, please contact: Sukanya Nair of The CSE Media Resource Centre, sukanya.nair@cseindia.org, 8816818864.