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November 18, 2020

SEPA finally approves incinerators for Larkana hospitals after a year’s delay

National

November 18, 2020

KARACHI: After more than a year after the world’s largest HIV outbreak among children in Ratodero, Sindh, an expert committee of Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) comprising environmentalists, public health experts and officials on Tuesday finally gave a go ahead for the installation of four incinerators at various health facilities in Larkana and its different Talukas where hundreds of children are under-treatment after testing positive for HIV infection last year.

The Sindh Health department had decided to install four incinerators at various health facilities, including Sheikh Zayed Women’s Hospital, Larkana, Taluka Hospital, Ratodero, Rural Health Center, Naudero, and other places where around 1,200 children who were infected with HIV are being treated after it was learnt that reuse of syringes was the main cause of HIV outbreak among them.

Director General SEPA Naeem Ahmad Mughal presided over the environmental review session of experts committee that gave a go ahead for the installation of incinerators. It was further decided that environmental approval for the installation and operation would be given shortly after the people of Larkana raised no objections to the installation of incinerators at a public hearing on Nov. 10, 2020.

The committee observed that safe disposal of hospital waste eliminates the risk of the spread of various infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, therefore, the plan for the installation and operation of incinerators in various hospitals of the Larkana district is being speedily processed.

With the financial support of the World Health Organization and the managerial supervision of Sindh Health department, one incinerator with the capacity of incinerating 50 kg per hour of medical waste will be installed at the Sheikh Zayed Women’s Hospital, Larkana, while one each of the capacity of 20 kg of waste per hour will be installed at Taluka Hospital Ratodero and Rural Hospital Naudero. In addition, the place of the installation of the fourth incinerator with a capacity of 10 kg of medical waste per hour will be decided by the health department.

SEPA officials said Barrister Murtaza Wahab, Adviser Law and Environment, has already directed SEPA to conduct an environmental review of projects related to the public interest on a priority basis. It should be approved without delay while fulfilling their necessary environmental requirements.

Dr Sarah Salman, WHO head in Sindh, told the meeting that her organization was working with the Sindh Health department to prevent further spread of HIV/AIDS in Larkana and to improve the healthcare system in hospitals and especially to ensure safe disposal of medical waste.

The WHO is also financing the medical waste disposal machines and has signed an agreement with a company called Madeline Technologies for the installation of incinerators, she added.

During the meeting, issues related to the amount of smoke emitting from chimneys, side effects of disposing medical waste, method of disposal of incinerated waste’s ash, provision of training to their operators and temporary storage of the waste before disposal were critically examined.

Director General SEPA urged the WHO to continue administrative oversight and financial support for the supply, installation, and subsequent operation of the machines beyond their three-year contract period. He also assured that SEPA would provide all-possible assistance in environmental matters till the completion of the projects.