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An alternative to conventional mode of cremation

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New facility: A wood gas-fired crematorium under construction in Chitlapakkam town panchayat.
New facility: A wood gas-fired crematorium under construction in Chitlapakkam town panchayat.

K. Manikandan

TAMBARAM: Wood gas-fired crematoriums have the become the convenient choice for administrators of urban local bodies and the Department of Municipal Administration and Water Supply to replace conventional cremation methods, owing to the comparatively lesser costs incurred for burning of bodies.

The first wood gas-fired crematorium in the southern suburbs of Chennai was commissioned at Chromepet in Pallavaram Municipality in 2006. Since then, similar facilities, also known as gasifiers were set up in Alandur. Gasifiers are also being built in Tambaram and Chitlapakkam Town Panchayat.

Senior officials of the Department of Municipal Administration and Water Supply said proposals were currently on to expand it so that more town panchayats and municipalities could have them.

The cost of installing them was around Rs.35 lakh and operating them was simple and cost effective. Compared to the conventional method of cremation that required 300 and 500 kilograms of firewood, gasifiers needed less than half that amount. Here, uniformly chopped wood chips are continuously burnt in a high temperature of 1,200 degrees Celsius and gas from this furnace is directed to a chamber, where an electrical spark ignites a fire to burn the bodies.

The time taken for completing the cremation of each body is saved and so is the use of firewood, said A. Mohan, Chairman of Chitlapakkam Town Panchayat, where a gasifier is being built at a cost of Rs.44 lakh. A substantial amount is being funded by the State government, while the rest is from the town panchayat’s general funds.

Locating land for the purpose is not a problem as they can be used in the existing cremation grounds itself. However, the most important benefit that residents stood to gain was that it also brings transparency.

In conventional cremation grounds, undertakers fleece innocent relatives who would not prefer to bargain and end up paying a few thousand rupees more than the stipulated charges.

But in the gasifiers, charges are fixed after a resolution is passed by the local body’s council. Receipts are issued and the scope for harassment is ruled out.

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