Burning problem

Safdarjung Hospital's incinerator spells trouble for those living in its vicinity

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

over 500 people living in the Safdarjung Hospital campus in New Delhi are faced with possible health hazards due to their proximity to a hospital incinerator. Among those at risk are construction site workers and hospital nurses. Both live in the vicinity of the incinerator, which burns approximately 1,400 kg of waste every day.

While converting solid waste into liquid and then gaseous form, an incinerator releases dioxins, which are carcinogenic. They are also endocrine disrupters and are especially harmful to pregnant women.

"The smoke from the incinerator can cause respiratory diseases among people living in its surrounding," says Ravi Agrawal, coordinator, Shrishti, a Delhi based non-governmental organisation. "It is advisable not to have human settlements within 500 metres of an incinerator. But there are no laws to ensure this," he adds.

"I often have severe headaches and bad cough, " says Eric William, one of the residents. "The incinerator releases foul smell and it often becomes unbearable," complains another. Munni Devi, one of the construction workers residing in the incinerator's proximity, also complains of the smell.

"The workers have been living here for four to six months," says Rajan, who operates the incinerator. It was not until the chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board ( cpcb ), Dilip Biswas, visited the hospital and urged the authorities to take immediate action that plans were made to remove the shanties.

The hospital passed an order to remove the shanties by November 1, 2000, but their presence is till date more than conspicuous. The nurses quarter, meanwhile, has become a permanent feature. Says M K Chakravarty, the hospital's additional medical superintendent, "Nothing can be done about it. The nurses' hostel will stay and so will the incinerator."

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