We are appalled to learn that Barisal city does not have any specialised disposal system for its medical waste. Waste from the government hospitals, clinics, diagnostic centres, blood banks and upazila health complexes—around five tonnes of it—is collected and dumped with regular garbage into a six-acre landfill. Such waste poses grave risks to both humans and the environment.
The medical waste includes used syringes, bandages, dressings, needles, even amputated parts of human body, stool, urine, blood, expired medicine, etc. When rag-pickers, most of whom are children, come to the landfills, they are exposed to these waste products, becoming vulnerable to contagious diseases such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C, tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS.
It is common knowledge that medical waste must be crushed and burnt in an incinerator before it can be disposed of. So how is it possible that a city as big as Barisal does not have any incinerator? According to the report, a waste disposal plant had been installed in 2004 by a group of NGOs but then it was damaged in 2006, after which the medical waste started being dumped in the landfill. What has Barisal City Corporation been doing for the last 13 years? Officials of the BCC have claimed that they have applied to the relevant ministry for a proper clinical waste disposal plant outside the city. Meanwhile, with the population of the city increasing, clinical waste is also increasing, putting added pressure on the existing landfill. The situation is graver when we take into account that the landfill is located near water bodies, and waste such as infectious blood tossed inside a landfill can contaminate the soil as well as the drinking water supplies.
At this point, the matter must be treated as an emergency and all steps must be taken by the government to ensure that a proper disposal system with an incinerator is installed on an urgent basis and all medical waste is treated in it. Not doing so would put thousands of people at risk.