Citizens Conduct Audit Of 40 Pune Crematoriums : Find Lack Of Electric, Gas Pyres Resulting In Continuous Pollution

Pune Pulse
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 MP Vandana Chavan intervenes and writes to Pune Municipal Commissioner to look into providing proper amenities across all crematoria across the city

Pune, June  19 , 2023

The Pune Air Action Hub, which includes several civil society organisations and individuals who care about the air quality in the city surveyed 40 crematoria out of the 80 within the PMC limits Pune city. The hub members surveyed the crematoria on several criteria, including how many were using wood, gas or electricity. They looked at the surroundings of the crematoria, whether there was greenery and in general good maintenance, availability of water and clean toilet facilities for men and women,  space and availability of priests to carry out last rites, how the death passes were obtained, whether there were any phone numbers for the citizens to get any information, etc.

Over the last few years it was observed that over 50% of the total cremations take place at the Vaikunth smashanbhoomi, which is the oldest crematorium in Pune. This is a tremendous excessive overload and the residents of Navi Peth, where it is located, are most affected by its overuse. They claim that continuous burning, during the day as well as night causes immense air pollution which spreads in the households around and its severe health impacts are being borne by  all residents, especially the children and elderly. The issue is also aggravated due to the APCs (Air Pollution Control) not working optimally and the height of the chimney being questionable. The residents have approached the High Court for a resolution along with many other authorities at the state and city level.

Sharmila Deo, Parisar said ,“Currently there are no Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guidelines for crematoria in urban areas. This is a huge gap in mitigation efforts, and MP Vandana Chavan had raised this question in the Parliament. The Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has responded that CPCB is currently preparing the guidelines. Experts believe that such guidelines are essential as in most cities the old crematoria are now surrounded by dense residential areas and are bearing the brunt of pollution coming from these crematoria.”

Sathya Natarajan, member of the Hub said, “While doing the survey we realised that with a little upkeep and some small immediate interventions, many crematoria can be easily accessed by nearby residents. Residents should be encouraged to use the facilities at the crematorium closest to them”.

Shweta Vernekar, Parisar said, “There is a severe dearth of electric furnaces in the city. The PMC should replace wood burning furnaces with electric ones to help mitigate the pollution and the health impacts caused to citizens staying around the crematoria. There needs to be a mass awareness amongst citizens to highlight the benefits of opting for electric cremations over wood. Although it is not simple as it has a cultural and religious angle to it, with consistent dialogue and right information given to the public, there will be considerable change.”

The report has also been presented to MP Vandana Chavan  who has   written to the PMC Commissioner seeking a  meeting to discuss the key findings and the recommendations of the report along with the Hub members. She has also written a letter to the CPCB with some of the technical recommendations.

“The Vaikunth issue is a long pending and a disturbing one,” she said, “ it is important to look into why citizens prefer going to certain crematoria only, and give those kinds of services at every crematorium to ensure a more balanced distribution of cremations. It will only become easier for the citizens as well to be able to use the facilities of the closest crematorium, rather than commuting elsewhere in the city.”

There has been no response from the PMC or MPCB till date.

Key findings :

  • Out of the 83 open pyres surveyed, none had any air pollution control mechanism
  • Out of the 40 crematoria surveyed, only 7 had electric, and 16 had gas cremation facility
  • Only 45% of the surveyed crematoria had functional and clean toilets
  • Only 47% of the surveyed crematoria were found to have a pleasant and clean surroundings

Some main recommendations made in the report:

  • Improve basic services like water, clean toilets  at the crematoria
  • Increasing the share of electric and gas cremations over wood burning, which is very limited currently
  • Ward-wise decentralisation of outreach and information related to crematoria should be taken up
  • Citizen feedback for betterment of crematoria services should be conducted

Some technical recommendations were also made.

To view the report, click:

 About us

Pune Air Action Hub: The Pune Air Action Hub is a citizens initiative, which includes several civil society organisations and individuals including organisations like Parisar, CEE, Prayas Health Group, Samuchit, HIRWA and others who have joined hands and come together to achieve clean air for the city.