Pandemic Catalyzes Growth of CNG Crematoriums, But Delhi Goes Back to Traditional Methods | Latest Delhi News

Subsequent waves of the Covid-19 pandemic propelled alternative cremation methods to the forefront in the city earlier this year, but demand for CNG and electric crematoriums declined dramatically in the following months as people returned. traditional wood-based cremations.

Delhi previously only had two CNG crematoria – at Nigambodh Ghat and Punjabi Bagh Shamshan Bhumi – but the pandemic has seen the government double the number of ovens at these facilities and install new units in places like Green Park, Karkardooma, Subhash Nagar and Ghazipur.

Avdhesh Kumar, funeral supervisor at the city’s largest cremation site at Nigambodh Ghat, said people are returning to traditional funerals. “Almost everyone now prefers traditional wood-based cremation over CNG cremation, which is now less than 10%. When there was a Covid rush, CNG ovens were in high demand because people wanted faster support. If there are about 50 normal wood-based cremations a day, we’re barely getting 5-6 requests for CNG units now, ”Kumar said.

Suman Gupta, the chief coordinator of the NGO running the ghat, also said the preference for wood-based cremations is “clearly several times higher than CNG.”

In the western part of the city, Punjabi Bagh Shamshan Bhumi operates the second largest battery of four CNG fireplaces, but the funeral says they are hardly used. “… some have religious apprehensions about alternative methods. Many of them say relatives will oppose a non-traditional method, ”said a funeral director.

A senior SDMC official overseeing the Punjabi Bagh and Subhash Nagar CNG units agreed. “Health an option, people are again opting for wooden platforms and not CNG units,” the official said.

In the past year alone, five new CNG crematorium sites – in Sector 24 of Dwarka, Jwala Nagar, Seemapuri and Aya Nagar – have been approved. MCDs are prone to CNG crematoriums because electric crematoriums are more expensive due to high commercial electricity tariffs and filament maintenance, and they face regular tripping of electrical connections. Officials said the Green Park electric unit, which had gone unused for years, was converted to CNG in February this year, and the Sarai Kale Khan electric crematorium is only used to cremate unclaimed bodies. .

Before the start of the pandemic, the city hosted around 90,000 cremations each year, more than 90% of which were traditional wood-based cremations. The latest statistics released by the Delhi government in the “Delhi Birth and Death Registration Annual Report-2020” show that over 140,000 deaths were registered in 2020. Data for 2021, however, has not been reported. been published. According to the daily Covid bulletin published by the Delhi government, the city has recorded 25,097 deaths since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, but several reports claim that the number could be more than double that figure.

“Every year, Delhi witnesses the deaths of people coming for treatment in its hospitals. Regarding the removal of graves in other communities and infant deaths, we estimate that at least 80,000 to 90,000 wood-based cremations take place each year, ”said a senior public health official overseeing operations. of the city’s burial sites.

Adding to pollution

Each traditional wood-based cremation uses 400-500 kg of wood, and it is estimated that at least 32 million kg of wood are consumed in the city’s shamshan bhumis.

Delhi experienced a shortage of timber during the April-May period as demand increased sharply due to Covid-related deaths. A 2016 study by IIT Kanpur, which took a conservative amount of 216 kg of wood per funeral and assessed just 53 cremation sites, indicated that cremation sites add 4% of toxic carbon monoxide emissions to the Delhi air. He concluded that more than 2,129 kg of carbon monoxide, 33 kg of sulfur dioxide, 346 kg of PM10 and 312 kg of PM2.5 dust particles were emitted each day from cremations.

When hearing a 2016 case, the National Green Tribunal ordered the Union Environment Ministry and Delhi government to initiate programs to provide alternative modes of cremation, saying ” the traditional method of wood pyres emits dangerous pollutants into the environment ”.

Anshul Garg, director of Mokshda – a company that sets up metal funeral pyre systems that consume less wood, believes that a way can also be found to satisfy religious sentiments while reducing the pollution load from traditional cremations. . Noting that it’s not easy to suddenly change people’s feelings and religious sentiments, he said CNG / electric cremations would remain low under normal circumstances. “We use ashtdhatu frames, which improve air circulation and maximize the use of heat. This results in only using a quarter of the wood in each cremation while the chimney captures most of the harmful pollutants, ”he explained.

Mokshda has installed 19 such units in Delhi-NCR at nine sites and 54 units in seven states, including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Kumar in Nigambodh argued that followers of certain religious sects, where gurus and spiritual leaders urge people to opt for environmentally friendly cremations, show an inclination for CNG / electric funerals.

“The Nirankaris, for example, showed a preference for CNG units because that was part of the rhetoric. In 2016, when a key cult leader died in a traffic accident, he was cremated using the CNG stake method at Nigambodh Ghat. Spiritual leaders will have to convince people to opt for more ecological means to remove the hesitations, ”he added.

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