KARACHI: A warehouse with large quantities of highly infectious waste was sealed in a raid conducted with police assistance on Monday in the SITE area of Suk­kur city, the Sindh Envir­onmental Protection Agency (Sepa) officials told Dawn.

The waste included infectious waste of hospitals such as used syringes, glucose bottles, surgery equipment and refuse of dialysis machines, e-waste, used leather products and refuse of pesticides.

The electronic waste inclu­ded parts of used computers, prin­ters, laptops, mobile pho­nes and other accessories.

“All of the waste was kept in an open area. No worker was found at the warehouse,” said a Sepa official on condition of anonymity, adding that the waste was to be transported to Lahore where it was sold to recycling factories.

Each item of the waste would be recorded and necessary legal action would be initiated, he said.

Asked about waste’s disposal, he said no strategy had been formulated yet. “The matter will be taken up at a higher level and decided. Meanwhile, contacts have been made with the landowner who apparently has rented out the property to someone.”

The departmental action, he said, was part of the mea­sures being taken to ensure implementation of Sindh Hos­pi­tal Waste Manage­ment Rules.

The process to pro­secute offenders had already started.

According to sources, only four public sector hospitals located in Nawabshah, Lark­ana, Jamshoro and Sukkur have incinerators in entire Sindh, apart from Karachi.

Operation of these decades-old facilities, however, has remained under criticism and it was only after the Supreme-Court mandated water commission that the government showed some seriousness on the matter.

The process to install new imported incinerators at eight public sector hospitals in the province is yet to start.

Under Section 12 and 13 of Sindh Environmental Pro­tec­tion Act 2014, handling, import and unsafe storage and transportation of all types of hazardous waste is strictly prohibited and is a punishable offence.

It may be recalled that the lack of bio-safety control measures at healthcare facilities and unsafe disposal of hazardous waste, especially the type produced by hospitals and allied facilities such as laboratories, clinics and maternity homes, is a serious public health issue in the province.

Only a handful of hospitals in Karachi have incinerators.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2019