Since Mumbai tries to deal with Covid-19, the rising waste is a related consequence of the pandemic. In July, Mumbai city produced three times the average daily Covid-19 waste compared to April and 42 times that of the March 12-day pandemic. By July, in pre-pandemic times, the city was producing roughly the same level of Covid-19 garbage as regular hazardous wastes.
Even before the disease outbreak, solid waste from Mumbai was in a state of emergency with the Bombay High Court has formed a committee after years of neglect by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to seal off the Deonar garbage dumping ground.
Covid-19 waste includes masks, gloves, protective gear used by Covid-19 patients apart from needles, tissues packed in the blood, body fluids, and medicines. The total number of persons found positive for Covid-19 in Mumbai was 145,000 over five months after the initial cases were detected, including 7,655 lives lost and 110,000 recovered and discharged, as reported by the municipal corporation.
In addition, Covid-19 waste created by containment zones, quarantine, or insulation facilities brings the total to 3,750 kg. In May, Covid-19 waste doubled its average. June marked yet another increase, and by July, Mumbai produced an average of 12,065 kg of Covid-19 daily waste. This is the daily biomedical waste generated in pre-COVID times in Mumbai.
The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board issued standards in April where waste is dumped in yellow bags of Covid-19 while another municipal waste is dumped in black bags from containment areas. Yellow bags are burned at the Deonar disposal site at SMS Envoclean, black bags are disinfected, and a deep burial is provided at the nearby dumping site.
An outcome of this is that hospitals recently raised a stink about the bags full of COVID waste lying on their grounds, as the agency had failed to dispose of them for days. The municipality ultimately had to assist the contractor in disposing of the wastes.
At nearby Kalyan, activist Kishor Sohoni filed a public interest lawsuit at Bombay High Court seeking guidance to avoid the immediate dumping of untreated Covid-19 waste at Adharwadi dumping ground in Dombivali.
The organization reported at the time of the pandemic that the waste doubled in terms of weight but only five times in value Private hospitals pay Rs 100 per kg and have now requested the same amount from public hospitals to compensate for damages. The municipal corporation has yet to take its demands into account.
Worry over poisonous gases
“Smoke from the plant’s chimney comes right into our houses which is why there has been a high prevalence of respiratory diseases in Govandi for years now. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, the smoke has increased 10 times what was emanated earlier.” Says Shaikh Faiyaz Alam, a member of NGO New Sangam Welfare Society lives in Govandi, a locality next to the dumping ground
Outbreak disposal staff and conservancy workers
Meanwhile, Mumbai’s conservancy workers have constantly expressed concerns about poor conditions since the pandemic broke out.
“Municipal officers wear N95 masks while conservancy workers are given cloth masks.” Says Milind Ranade of Kachra Vahatuk Shramik Sangh, an organization for laborers. “We had to tie up with a private company to distribute something as basic as soap to laborers.”
Between March and August 19, more than 100 municipal workers lost their lives to Covid-19, of which 35 were from the solid waste management department. As of August 19, four contracted preservation staffers have died of Covid-19.