Carbon Footprints Of The Dead

We can’t ignore the alarming warnings of global warming and climate change anymore.

Welcome to decade zero – either you act now or you lose your only chance – total annihilation.

With our careless behaviour, we’re writing our own extinction. Quoting Stephen Hawking, “Humanity has only 1,000 years left on Earth.” To make sure we even have a tomorrow, we need to take bold and dramatic steps today. It’s important to realise the importance of changing the way we work, travel, eat, pray and even die.

Sounds ridiculous? Well, funeral pyres are said be the second largest contributors to global warming.

According to researchers from Nevada’s Desert Research Institute and the Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla University in Chhattisgarh, South East India, the impact is “huge” – 23 per cent of particles from human burnt fossil fuels in the atmosphere are a major source of carcinogenic volatile organic compounds. Their dark particles settle on snow and glaciers causing them to warm and melt. Let’s not forget how millions of trees are chopped off to gather firewood for the disposal of the bodies.

Here are stories of people who identified this grave issue and looked at cremation differently:

Mokshda Green Cremation System is an organization that offers Indians a cleaner, more energy-efficient option at crematoriums. This NGO realises how convincing Indians to change their traditional way of burning bodies dramatically is a difficult task so they’ve designed two methods that align with our belief systems.

They rest the wood on a large metal tray large that can hold a human body with an exhaust hood hanging overhead. Burning a body this way uses a third as much wood as the traditional method. It takes two hours instead of three days.The Mokshada way allows concentrating of the fire in the metal tray. This leads to the pyre becoming hotter at a faster pace with less amount of fuel and it releases much less smoke into the air.


Another such brilliant alternative was thought of by N. Nithyanandam who began the Kasi Pasumai Yatra as an initiative to end the dependence on wood for cremation rituals in Banaras. Instead of using firewood, he suggested the use of coconut shells collected from garbage heaps These coconut shells are then powdered using a machine and used for cremation rites. With an average of 380 bodies being cremated every day, around 280 tons of wood is used. Switching to powdered coconut shells saves 300 kgs of wood for one body. Kudos to Mr. Nithyanandam for controlling pollution to such an extent.


Now let’s talk about the concept of electric cremation. It’s not new – it was commissioned in January 1989 as a part of the Ganga Action Plan. Despite of having numerous advantages over traditional burning like being promoted by the government, being extremely economical, saving wood and emitting gas emissions, it is used only by certain sections of the society.


If you have a bright idea that could save us from this doom that we’re heading towards, let’s talk about bringing it to life before it’s too late?

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Shraddha Phulgirkar

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