Funerals signify a passage from life on earth to life on a better place — heaven.
But, the traditional process of cremation in India only ends up making the earth a more polluted place to live in. In a bid to make this final journey more clean and green, the Delhi Pollution Control Board (DPCB) has instructed the South Delhi Municipal Corporation to replace firewood with cow dung blocks. These log-shaped cow-dung cakes are also known as Gokashta.
Many environmentalists have hailed the initiative, which has been taken to reduce the emission of harmful gasses, as a noble move. “The biggest benefit of using cow dung instead of firewood is the conversion of harmful gases like methane into burning fuel. Even though the direct methane from cow dung is affecting global warming by increasing carbon credit, it is way less than the carbon produce from burning firewood,” explains environmentalist Deepak Kumar. He also points out another advantage of using cow dung as a replacement of burning firewood in funeral pyres.
“This initiative has earlier been introduced in Bhopal, Nagpur and Odisha. In 2017, crematorium grounds in Varanasi were also instructed to take up this alternative to reduce the environmental burden being put on the Himalayan forests for wood.
Other than environmental benefits, this alternative is also acceptable to many people, as the Vedas have always supported the use of cow dung cakes for last rites and rituals. “In the Hindu religion, using gobar and gokashta has always been considered auspicious. It was only in the later years that people forgot this and started burning firewood instead,” says Surendar, the supervisor of an eco-friendly crematorium ground that has been successfully using gokashta.
Another salient feature that he mentions is that of saving time. However, the debate on whether cow dung is the best solution for a greener tomorrow is not yet over. Professor Shyam Sunder Jyani, a nature conservationist, believes, “Cow dung is also a by-product of cellulose. It also emits carbon dioxide and other gasses. So, it has not been scientifically proven that using cow dung instead of other fuels will help the environment. This is more of a religious practice than a scientific one.”...