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Mokshda Pevss, Indian. In order to preserve ancestral rites and saving the forests he proposes a cremation system reducing the amount of wood needed.

La crémation verte : s’occuper des morts pour assurer la survie des vivants

It is with great kindness that Vinod Kumar Agarwal, the founder of Mokshda, a New Dehli based NGO, came to our hotel to present to us his model of a pro-environmental cremation, the “Green Cremation System”.

If there is one tradition that is important and immutable among the Hindus in India (being 800 million persons or 85 percent of the Indian population!), it is cremation. To reduce its environmental impact is however the challenge that Mr Agarwal has set his mind on.

Traditionally, a pyre of about one meter high is set up. The body of the deceased is placed upon it and is covered with another layer of wood. The body is burned out in the open air and the ashes are then thrown in the sacred water of the Ganges, which is highly polluted…

The increase of the population is a big threat to the forests

After once having seen a family, too poor to be able to buy enough wood, throwing an only partly burned body in the Ganges, Mr Agarwal decided to tackle the heart of the issue: to improve the efficiency of the Hindu cremation, all by fighting climate change.
Indeed, one has to know that a traditional cremation require 400 kilos of wood to be burned during six hours. In total, more than 50 million trees are being used each year in India for cremation. Half a ton of ashes is thrown in the Ganges each year. This way, the cremation is a source of 8 million tonnes CO2 emission each year!

The alternative that Mr Agarwal proposed is one of the simplest but also one of the most efficient: a pyre of the size of a person is placed on marble with, under the wood, iron bars that allows a better aeration of the fire.

Over the pyre a roof is set up with a chimney in the middle that picks the toxic particles and avoids the loss of heat.

This model, elaborated after 15 years of trial, demands only 100 kilo of wood (75 percent less than usual) and allow to reduce the CO2 emissions by 60 percent!

Once having developed this model, Mr Agarwal convinced the religious authorities that using less wood would not contradict the traditions and managed to gain their support. Unlike the system with electric cremations that the government has tried to introduce, the “Green Cremation System” allows indeed to respect the Hindu rites.

The wood, being a symbolic material that allows the connection between the body and the earth is still present. The families can still accomplish the “mukhagani” rite (light a fire in the mouth of the dead) and the “kapal kriya” (to crack a bamboo on the skeleton of the dead in order to liberate its soul).

Mokshda en bref




Preserve traditions but reducing the use of wood at the same times.

Why he is "Coeur Vert" ?

75 percent less use of wood and 60 percent less CO2 emission in the atmosphere.

Où contacter Mokshda ?

In addition this system allows facing another problem that is important in India , both economically and environmentally: the lack of wood. In 2005 the situation was so critical that bodies were lined up to be burned. In five years the price of wood was multiplied five times! Another important issue is also to be taken into account: the growing demography in India…

An environmental solution that respects the ancestral rites

Thanks to the funds and the support of the public authorities, Mr Agarwal has managed to install 42 units of “Green Cremation System” in India, which each one costs around 30 000 USD. Today his model has an enormous potential of development since Mr Agarwal lists more than 800 crematoriums – of which 350 only in Dehli – that have shown interest of his project.

But if other Hindu rituals, such as marriage or the way of dressing or eating have evolved in India, the one of death, being both the most taboo as well as the most powerful, remains the most difficult to change. It is for this reason that the new challenge for Mr Agarwal consists of making the “Green Cremation System” eligible under the credit system, established in the Kyoto Protocol. This would permit the foreign investment in his project. This way Mr Agarwal could propose his model abroad (the Hindu communities in Canada and England are indeed showing their interest for his project). He could also develop his research for a new model that only uses 70 kilo of wood…

Despite the fact that the subject might seem difficult to bring up, this project correspond perfectly with the spirit of Cœur Vert: it is a concrete and reproductive alternative and it is adapted to the Indian economy: it allows to better protect the environment – all by respecting the Hindu traditions.

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