Second wave leads to open cremations, environment in danger

Bangalore BBMP City COVID-19 Environment Pandemic

Makeshift crematoriums increase demand for firewood causing air pollution.

Bengaluru: Environmentalists believe that open cremation of a body releases a lot of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, greenhouse gases that cause air pollution.

“The mass burning could have been avoided on such a large scale. Whenever wood is being burnt, it doesn’t go under complete combustion. As a part of rituals, a lot of things like camphor and ghee are burnt together. When this happens the contamination level is very high. For the people living within a five km radius this can be very hazardous,” said Dr Nidhi Paliwal, environmentalist.

Environmentalists say in a situation like this the government should have pre-planned and increased the number of electric crematoriums rather than organising mass burning as an immediate measure.

On the other hand, electric crematorium workers said they are highly overworked and that the furnaces need immediate repair. Chandru who works at Kudlu crematorium in Bengaluru said that the number of cremations has been the same, even though open cremations are organised by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

“Every day we burn 26 to 28 bodies. Open crematoriums might have started, but we have no relief. They are located on the outskirts of the city, all locals prefer to come here,” said Chandru.

The BBMP has initiated three open crematoriums in Giddenahalli, Taverehere, and Yelahanka to take the load off electric crematoriums. Open cremations address the problem of Covid-19 deaths with that the demand for firewood has gone up. “As you must have seen ambulances are lined up for days outside electric crematoriums. To help that we have opened new ones in Taverehere, Giddenahalli. We are planning to set up two more in KR Puram and Yelahanka. Giddenahalli at a time 41 bodies can be burnt and in Taverehere 29,” said Personal Assistant to the Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Anitha Lakshmi, Bangalore Urban.

BBMP officials said that they have assigned 540 tonnes of firewood for these mass cremations. More has been sought from the forest department. One open cremation requires at least 150 to 200 kgs of wood. With that diesel camphor and ghee are needed. Currently, the cremation grounds have only 200 tonnes of wood left. “It takes around six to eight hours to cremate a body using firewood. While using the electric way, it takes up two hours,” added Chandru.

As per media reports, Deputy Commissioner Manjunath says so far 120 bodies have been cremated in Taverehere and Giddenahalli.

While open cremations are a major environmental hazard, environmentalists also raise concerns about the PPE kits that are dumped by the family members near these crematoriums. Dr Nidhi adds that “PPE kits, masks, and gloves are hazardous waste. These things are causing great harm to the environment and the citizens living around.” Dr Nidhi further states that such reject waste should be disposed of properly. The government bodies are overworked right now but the citizens should show caution and break the chain. 

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