ISLAMABAD: Heaps of hospital wastes, piling up at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims), are turning out to be a serious health hazard for visitors to the hospital, besides causing environmental pollution in the area.

The alarm was sounded by the officials of the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) when they noticed that the waste was not only giving foul smell but generating a chemical which, they said, got mixed with groundwater.

The officials of the Pak-EPA were stunned when they saw a mound of plastics, rubber, wrappers, clothing, bandages and several other medical wastes went unnoticed by the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

“Our biggest concern is the leachate which may mix up with the ground water,” said an official in the Pak-EPA pointing towards the dark brown mixture of fluid, flowing from the garbage and spreading into the surrounding green area.

“The problem will start when the contaminated content percolates through the ground and pollutes the aquifer,” said the official.

Although contained in a walled but open space, the raw hospital waste, environmentalists believe, is too close to a federal government Junior Model High school and some 150 to 200 residential flats for the hospital staff.

Former Director General Pak-EPA, Asif Shuja explained that leachate is produced as soon as garbage starts decaying in roughly three to four days.

“Leachate is a highly dangerous mix of bacteria and viruses and this is why garbage must be taken care of immediately especially if it is hospital waste,” he warned.Nonetheless, the Pak-EPA has directed the Pims administration to take up the issue with the CDA, which is responsible for collecting hospital waste.

Environmentalists in Pak-EPA have time and again voiced their concerns over poor hospital waste management as they believe it was mixed with normal municipal waste, which was hazardous to health and the environment.

There is no data on how much waste, which is also infectious, is being generated by both the private and public hospitals but their bigger concern is that hospital waste is not being properly segregated particularly in public sector hospitals.

When contacted, an official of Pims administration said they had repeatedly asked the CDA to collect hospital waste but to no avail.

“The CDA’s garbage trucks have not come to collect the waste for two months,” said the official. But he could not confirm how much waste Pims generates.

Nonetheless, when a senior official in CDA was contacted on the issue, he could not give explanation for the raw hospital wastes still lying there.

“It probably did not come into the notice to the sanitation department of the CDA. But it will be taken care of,” said the official.