Sunday, November 22, 2009

Solar Cremation in India?

Hindu death cremation
Solar Cremation may soon be an option at an innovative new crematory in the city of Barot, India. Special reflectors are used to heat the cremation chamber to very high temperatures, offering an environmentally friendly option to electric power and traditional pyre cremations currently employed in India.
Here are excerpts from the Times of India, and the Meri News:

The crematorium has been built as a chamber with special scheffler reflector developed specifically for this concept. The reflectors are designed to heat a two meter long crematorium chamber to above 700 degrees centigrade. "The facility was made operational on an experimental basis recently. It will be commissioned within two months and shall be free of cost for everyone using it," said trustee Uday Dalal. The traditional system of cremating people on woodpile consumes over 300 kilogram of wood. Many trees are felled to meet the requirement. The old method the woodpile was then to some extent replaced with electric and gas fired chambers. Times of India

Contrary to popular perception, electric crematoriums also lead to more pollution than the traditional Hindu style of cremation, involving burning the body on a pyre. The UNDP report informs that electric cremation is nearly seven times more intensive in terms of emission of green house gases as compared to the traditional Hindu style. Solar crematorium also appears to be a viable option, suggests V Ramesh of Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited. India is the front runner in this regard, with Baroda, a city in Gujarat equipped with the world’s first solar crematorium. It was developed by Wolfgang Sheffler, a Swiss national and Ronnie Sabbawala of Rashron Energy and Auto limited. The body is burned exclusively using solar energy. The second solar crematorium is to be erected in Patna, Bihar, by 2009. But this method also has certain disadvantages. Solar crematoriums are impossible in many parts of India during the winters and monsoons. Also, they can be used only during the day as long as the sun shines. Meri News

Important questions remain on how well this method will work, and how widely it will be accepted in India, let alone elsewhere. It is important to keep in mind that the traditional cremation in India does not achieve the degree of combustion that is expected in North America and Europe. 700 degrees Centigrade is at the low end of incineration temperatures used in the West, so this method would be more time consuming and result in more recognizable remains. Adoption of this method may be difficult for families and operators unless the technology advances, and higher temperatures can be created in the chamber.

This is certainly a promising first step, though, and many of us will watch closely as solar cremation is tested in India.

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