Giving Compass' Take:

• At India Development Review, Jayapadma discusses India's unchecked biomedical waste problem and its potential danger for sanitation workers.

• How does India's biomedical waste problem reflect the world's lack of preparedness for COVID-19? How can we work to correct waste issues for conservation and health purposes worldwide?

For a list of coronavirus relief resources, like those directed at biomedical waste, learn more here.

Even though the law requires it, biomedical waste is hardly ever segregated in India. This has a direct impact on the safety and dignity of sanitation workers, especially during the current pandemic.

When the lockdown was announced, sanitation workers found themselves clubbed together with healthcare workers, the media, and police, as categories of people who were exempt from the lockdown and expected to discharge their duties as usual. They were also counted as ‘frontline’ workers, along with healthcare workers.

However, they have not received the same amount of attention, in terms of having access to protective gear or logistics support (food, water, rest, finances, transport, and so on). Moreover, they are exposed to a great amount of risk while handling biomedical waste during this time, added to which they have no information or training on how to manage it.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) did come out with guidelines on handling COVID-19 biomedical waste, but these were focused on hospitals and not on household-level biomedical waste (except for households with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases). In the absence of any systems and processes, several states such as Kerala, Maharashtra, or West Bengal, are now struggling with the disposal of biomedical waste.

The absence of careful segregation also affects the possibility of recovering, reusing, and recycling dry waste, and compromises the composting process of wet waste, leading to more waste in underground landfills or overground dumpsites.

Sanitation workers play a crucial role in keeping our cities clean, and the importance of their work cannot be overstated during this time. We cannot fight this pandemic unless they are able to work with safety and dignity.

Read the full article about India's biomedical waste by Jayapadma at India Development Review.