Minister for State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), Xie Zhenhua, admitted that China is backward in its facilities to handle medical waste, particularly during the outbreak of SARS this year. But he said that the government will invest 7 billion yuan in the coming two to three years to solve the problem.
He made the remarks at a press conference sponsored by the State Council Information Office when asked what problems were exposed in terms of medical waste disposal and disposal of sewage during the SARS epidemic and what measures the environmental protection departments had adopted?
Xie said, “The infrastructure facilities in China are really very backward. In normal situations, China produces 650,000 tons of medical waste every year, that is 1,700 tons per day. The outbreak of SARS brought about more medical waste than normal, which put great pressure on pollution prevention work. Faced with this new situation, the SEPA issued five notices including strengthening administration and supervision over medical sewage and waste in hospitals, providing some standards and technical requirements, and teaching how to handle it in the case of emergencies.”
In addition to this, the central government assigned some money to various localities to purchase some qualified vehicles to transport medical sewage and garbage to be burnt. So after all the hard work, at all levels, there is now no further SARS transmission due to medical wastes, he said.
Xie said that considering the lagging infrastructure, the State Council has ordered SEPA and the State Development and Reform Commission to make a medical waste disposal scheme. In the following two or three years, the government will invest over 7 billion yuan (US$ 846 million) to gather medical waste in different regions for disposal. The scheme has been listed on schedule, and ready for implementation. In addition, the dangerous waste disposal has been also scheduled for discussion.
Xie said that the 10th Five-year Plan (2001-2005) had outlined the disposal plan of dangerous waste, which requires investment of over 20 billion yuan (US$2.41 billion). The measures to contain SARS have also promoted the disposal of medical waste and dangerous waste.
At the press conference, Xie released the 2002 Report on China’s Environmental Status.
(China.org.cn June 5, 2003)