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Sierra Leone News: Health Ministry failed to obtain EIA license for healthcare waste

The Environmental Protection Agency wrote a letter on 12 April 2016, advising the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) on the requirement to obtain an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) license in respect of different projects including healthcare waste. According to EPA-SL, a waiver was granted to the Ministry to install waste management equipment during the health emergency period of the Ebola epidemic and the letter was sent following the end of the health emergency in November 2015. In their performance audit of the Ministry’s management of healthcare waste, the Audit Service faulted the Ministry for not putting in place modalities to obtain an EIA licenses in respect of all healthcare waste treatment equipment and disposal methods adopted. In their response, the MoHS said they will collaborate with the EPA-SL to obtain the EIA license and develop an Environmental Management Plan for all hospitals subject to the availability of funds, the ASSL said that the issue remains unresolved and will be kept in view for subsequent or follow-up audit. EIA is a systematic process of identification, prediction and analysis of significant environmental impacts (positive or negative) of a proposed activity and its practical alternatives on the physical, biological, cultural and socio-economic characteristics of a particular area in order to provide necessary information for enhancing decision making. After EIA, the environmental management plan of the site is developed to ensure that appropriate environmental management practices are followed. Before carrying out waste management and disposal of hazardous waste, it is a requirement for such activities to have an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) license. This is provided for under Section 24(1) of the EPA Act, 2008 as amended in 2010, which states that no person shall undertake or cause to be undertaken any of the projects whose activity involves wastes management and disposal such as, sewage systems and hazardous wastes unless he holds a valid license in respect of such project. During the review of documents and interviews conducted with personnel of the MoHS and the EPA-SL, the Auditors noted that an EIA licence was not obtained as autoclaves and incinerators were installed during last three years and burning pits were established in all the referral hospitals visited. The hospitals under review were Connaught hospital, Bo, Makeni and Kenema Government hospital. In the absence of an environmental impact assessment on management of medical wastes, the Auditors said that there is a high risk of environmental pollution for which mitigating measures would not be instituted.

ZJ/13/11/18

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Wednesday November 14, 2018.

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