Introduction to KashmirForum.org Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.
www.kashmirforum.org

Monday, January 19, 2009

Improper Disposal of Biomedical Waste is Another Disaster in the Making

Biomedical waste poses a great threat to the general health in our valley

Wake up to challenge

Iftikar Rashid Wani (Rising Kashmir)

Some days back I happened to visit one of the biggest hospitals of our valley. To my utter surprise I found heaps of garbage and littered in every corner of the hospital, much like the roads of Kashmir. My unease drove me to the dump where I felt disturbed because of the presence of Biomedical waste which was lying un-incinerated, perhaps from many days together. Biomedical wastes, which are generated during the diagnosis, treatment or immunization of human beings, including human anatomical waste, micro-biology and biotechnology waste, discarded medicines and cyto-toxic drugs, solid wastes, liquid wastes etcetera have now become the matter of great concern because it has been found that hundreds of diseases are caused due to the infection originating from such wastes.

One should not get confused between Biomedical and other wastes. Biomedical wastes have deadly impact on human beings. Every day valley dumps thousands of tones of the toxic waste on land effecting air and water also. The domestic wastes exacerbate the situation; however, the most serious problem arises due to the dumping of hazardous hospital wastes without any treatment.

In Kashmir valley there are 1536 government health care centers, including 8 district and 48 sub district hospitals, besides hundreds of nursing homes, clinics, private hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, dental clinics which contribute to the wastes of Biomedical origin. This type of waste forms 10-20% of the total waste of Kashmir valley. In Srinagar city alone there are 10 big hospitals which generate about 12,000 kgs of biomedical waste per day which is in addition to 350 metric tones which the residents of Srinagar contribute by way of day to day domestic waste. While analyzing the water qualities of certain polluted water bodies of Kashmir it has been found that the wastes like saturated items dripping with blood and body fluids, discarded medical equipments, soiled cotton, plasters and autopsy wastes are the major hazards as they provide fertile environment for harmful micro-organisms to multiply.

In the recent years, Kashmir valley has witnessed the rise in water borne diseases because of the water contamination due to the presence of pathogens like Escherichia, Salmonella, Vibro Hepatitis, and Shigella which remain active until incinerated. Recently there was an outbreak of water borne diseases in district Bandipora also due the dumping of Biomedical wastes from civilian and army authorities in the water bodies of Bandipora. The list of diseases caused due to improper disposal of hospital wastes are endless, however AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, Bronchitis Gastroenteritis, eye and skin related diseases deserve a special mention. On the one hand the life expectancy is increasing day by day but on the other there are more deaths due to these infections.

A study conducted by WHO reveals that more than 50,000 people die every day from infectious diseases, the cause is simple that there is lack of awareness in the public regarding the Biomedical wastes and the risks exposed due to discarded needles, syringes and other medical waste together with municipal garbage bins at disposal sites. Aren't the frequent reports in various news papers of Kashmir, highlighting the mental agony and health problems because of the large waste dumping site, enough to shake the responsible authorities off sleep. Near the waste dump sites few people try to pick rags to make their living out of it. These rag pickers are exposed to the risk of injuries from contaminated needles and other sharp objects.

It is surprising on part of the health care centers that their administrators are least bothered about the disposal of biomedical wastes. There are not even separate biomedical waste bins for the collection of the wastes in the wards of the health care systems and off course no question arises pertaining to the functional autoclaves, incinerators or latest STPS. On an average these infectious wastes are stored in the hospitals for more than 48 hours and after that they may be burnt in open or handed over to Srinagar Municipal Council for its disposal.

But no body asks The Lal Ded Maternity Hospital with 500 beds capacity (which is always in news for wrong reasons) how it poses threat than healing its inmates. It generates those wastes which include human anatomical waste (placenta, etc) and are thrown away on the banks of river Jehlum besides dumping it in the compound for many days which was observed by Chief Minister himself. Same is the case with SKIMS which is the main cause of dying Anchar Lake and other water bodies.

It is the mismanagement of the administration in the hospitals, lack of commitment, and non availability of scientific instruments, which is resulting in a state of crisis. Because of the failure of proper disposal of Biomedical wastes four problems arise; I. non-destruction of infectious pathogens, 2. illegal recycling of disposable hospital items like syringes, catheters, plastic bottles, blood bags, 3. making of quilts from soiled cottons , bandages and 4. direct bodily contact of the sanitary staff which handles the infectious waste without having any protective gear and rag pickers which with infectious material. These problems need immediate attention by government authorities who seem to be least bothered over this sensitive issue.

With the introduction of modern medical practice the biomedical wastes would get piled up in coming times. The condition that Kashmir valley is going through demands special attention to this problem. In normalcy if the hospitals generate such a huge percentage of these wastes what should be the level of the production of such waste in the present day circumstance. It has been estimated that there will be a growth of 8% of such waste annually in peaceful atmosphere assuming that each bed of the hospital generates about 2 kgs of such wastes. Is the government of Jammu and Kashmir ready to face the worst situation? Infact there has developed a relationship of hatred between the Municipal authorities and the people residing near the dumping site, what will happen if it spreads to other areas. Valley needs to prepare herself for the rising crisis if things remain unchanged.

We know, in Kashmir, the mass causalities and injuries are common, hundreds of blood transfusions are administered to the patients, can any body guarantee the safe quality of these bottles, bags and other such materials when there is constant threat from people having ulterior motives of reusing such materiel, because of the absence of incinerators, ovens and any other mechanism through which such material could have been disposed off. Perhaps answer is in negative. Now time has come when government should wake up from deep slumber and try to correct the derailed system on war footing, other wise outbreak of epidemic is waiting with open arms bear hug us.

1 comment:

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