Most Indian cities, especially large metros like Delhi, are choked by smog. And while we all know about silencers, burning garbage, farm stubble and even diesel generators – there is one aspect of Indian life we overlook when it comes to air quality – cremations.
75% of India’s deceased are cremated, the second highest rate in the world – just behind Nepal.
Traditional wood cremation uses about 400-500 kg of wood in one burning and cities like Delhi, where 80,000 wood cremations occur every year, this would require over 3.6 crore kg wood — equivalent to burning about 4 lakh trees, and that’s just in one city.
With cremations being an inherent part of many cultures, a team from IIT Delhi has now developed an eco-friendly technique that offers a solution to counter air and water pollution as well as waste management.
And here’s how they did it. Using cow dung logs.
Dairy farming, primarily involving cows, generates a lot of bio-waste in the form of cow dung. Although a part it could be used as natural fertiliser, a major part ends up in landfills and local water bodies.
‘Arth’ the initiative started by Enactus IIT Delhi decided to tackle the problem of wood burning and cow dung disposal by making a special prototype machine powered by cow dung logs.
The team first creates these logs by feeding dried cow dung to a log-making machine, where they are burnt under controlled temperature, upwards of 50ºC.
The controlled burning is claimed to be less polluting, and the usage of alternative logs also leads to minimal pollution.
Last December, the team tested out the prototype. One of the team members, Raj, told The Times of India, “We saw positive results — there was less pollution, and the process was smooth. We are now working on manufacturing a machine that will help us produce more logs.”
The team aims to replace wood in Delhi’s crematoriums in the hopes of reducing deforestation. The prototype, if implemented, could also give farmers extra incentives for cattle dung.
According to Awadesh Sharma, in-charge of Nigambodh Ghat, one of Delhi’s cremation grounds, cow dung logs could become feasible as they would not hinder religious beliefs as cow dung has been used in cremations since the early days.
Here’s hoping that the prototype is gradually adopted by the Delhi government and then nationwide, which could help lessen our pollution worries.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)