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Environmental cleanliness goes up in flames

Kavita Kishore
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Karuvadikuppam crematorium causes pollution

Mars ecosystem: Smoke from the Karuvadikuppam crematorium spreading to surrounding areas in Puducherry. – Photo: T. Singaravelou
Mars ecosystem: Smoke from the Karuvadikuppam crematorium spreading to surrounding areas in Puducherry. – Photo: T. Singaravelou

Residents and shop-keepers near the Karuvadikuppam crematorium, maintained by the Oulgaret Municipality, are constantly bothered by the smoke from the complex that pollutes the environs around the facility.

The municipality installed an electric furnace a few years ago, which stopped working since June this year. People are now forced to only resort to the traditional method that causes a lot of pollution, according to one of the shop-keepers near the crematorium.

“The crematorium is close to many shops and school students are constantly crossing the area. There is often a thick haze over the entire area because of the smoke, which makes visibility poor in the evenings. The smell is intolerable, which makes many of us lose customers,” another shop-keeper said.

Many of the residents said they had made complaints in the past, but there has been no action for a long time. Often, even when the electric furnace was functional, many people opted not to use it, so the problem persisted for years now.

Director of the Puducherry Pollution Control Committee Theva Neethi Dhas said the PPCC has no control over emissions from traditional crematoriums However, if the municipality operated an electric furnace, its emission would be monitored by the committee.

It was not possible to move the location of the crematorium, since it had been instituted over two centuries ago. Unless the electric furnace was operated, there would be no check on the pollution, Mr. Dhas said.

Speaking to The Hindu , acting commissioner of the Oulgaret Municipality K.T. Alagiri said they had received a number of complaints about the failure of the electric furnace and repair works were being commissioned. In addition, there was a proposal to introduce an LPG furnace at the crematorium, which should be available in three months time, he said.

An official from the Oulgaret Municipality said the work on the electric furnace would be completed within 15 days. At present, the municipality was using the services of the groundskeeper whose family had been undertaking cremations for many generations.

Unfortunately, there was no control over the cost of cremations with the current groundskeeper, since the payment is made directly to him. Officially, the amount for one cremation is Rs. 1200 for the traditional method and Rs. 850 in case of the electric furnace.

Even when the electric furnace was operational, many people prefer the traditional method as it was in keeping with the ancient rituals, the official said.

The municipality could only take action on over-charging for cremation if there was a written complaint. So far nobody had lodged an official complaint, the official said.

Telephone enquiries with the person concerned confirmed that the rate for cremation is not fixed. The groundskeeper said he fixed the rate depending on the area of residence and the caste of the deceased. The rate quoted on enquiry was Rs. 2700. Since a traditional service was being provided, there would be no bill, he said.

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