Open burning of waste contributing to rise in air pollution levels

  • 28.4 tonnes waste is generated by hospitals in the valley every day

Kathmandu, January 27

The Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development has issued a circular to Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Lalitpur Metropolitan City and all 16 municipalities in the Valley, urging them to implement the government’s decision to impose ban on open burning of refuse.

According to Environment Management Section at the MoFALD, it was part of the government’s initiative to reduce air pollution in the Valley. A meeting of government agencies and stakeholders presided over by secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers had taken a decision to impose a ban on open burning of waste on January 14 and directed the MoFALD to issue a circular to all local bodies in the Valley to implement the decision.

“The municipalities will exercise the power conferred by the Solid Waste Management Act to enforce the ban on open burning,” read the circular. It is the responsibility of the local levels to collect and dispose of waste while maintaining environmental cleanliness. Any person committing offences mentioned in the laws may be liable to a fine of up to Rs 50,000 or imprisonment of up to three months or both.

According to Air Quality Management Action Plan for Kathmandu Valley developed by the Department of Environment, the average solid waste generation per capita per day is 0.50 kg and as such total waste generated every day is 1,750 tonnes.

Considering waste collection efficiency which is not up to the international best practices, it can be assumed that five to 10 per cent of waste is burned openly. Using the emission factor used in the Indian city of Delhi of 8kg/ton of waste, a total of 255 tonnes to 510 tonnes of PM is emitted in the valley. “Alarming aspect of this practice is that in many places the plastics are mixed and burned which can generate dioxin and furan, the known carcinogen,” it warned.

The action plan says that in the Valley there are 42 hospitals which have incineration facilities and other hospitals and health centers do not have incinerators. It is estimated that about 28.4 tons waste is generated by hospitals in the Valley every day and of which 59 per cent is segregated and sent to municipality, the rest is categorised as hazardous waste. This hazardous waste is either incinerated or burned openly illegally. In the month of  May 2017, stack monitoring of three hospitals were done and none of the incinerators are in compliance with the prescribed standard.

In many hospitals, there is still lack of installation of incinerator and there are no private or municipal facilities for treatment of hazardous hospital wastes in an environmentally sound manner. There are toxic air pollutants like dioxin, furans, mercury and lead released by incinerator which is highly risky to patients and staffs of hospitals and people living around the hospitals. Although there is standard for these pollutants, there is no monitoring capacity in the country, it warned.

Few hospitals are found well managed and using non-burned technology such as autoclaving. Most of the incinerators are operated at night time to avoid public complaints.

“If 11.6 tonnes of toxic waste is incinerated in an uncontrolled manner or openly burned, this not only generates 9.73 tonnes of particulate matter annually, it also emits significant quantity of carcinogens in the populated area risking the life of many from institutions established to cure the patients,” it says.