Thim­phu Thromde plans to do away with tra­di­tional pyres

The author­ity is plan­ning to set up a to­tal of 10 elec­tric in­cin­er­a­tors at Hejo cre­ma­tion ground

Business Bhutan - - Front Page - Phub Dem from Thim­phu

De­spite very lit­tle ad­vo­cacy and aware­ness on the use of the elec­tric in­cin­er­a­tor, Thim­phu Thromde is plan­ning to set up six more in­cin­er­a­tors at Hejo cre­ma­tion ground mak­ing it a to­tal of 10, and com­pletely stop tra­di­tional cre­ma­tion.

The Chief En­vi­ron­ment Of­fi­cer of Thim­phu Thromde, Yeshi Wangdi

said that the au­thor­i­ties have found the elec­tric in­cin­er­a­tor best for the coun­try’s en­vi­ron­ment and it is al­ready in the master plan.

He added that the Thromde is plan­ning to in­stall in­cin­er­a­tors in the two cre­ma­tion grounds in Thim­phu. How­ever, the plan will need time for im­ple­men­ta­tion due to bud­get con­straints.

Of the four elec­tric in­cin­er­a­tors in­stalled in Hejo as of now, two are be­ing used to burn bod­ies. The care­taker of Hejo cre­ma­tion, Purna said that among the four in­cin­er­a­tors, one broke down and the coil needs to be re­placed. “The other one is yet to be set up be­cause we are not trained to op­er­ate it.”

While the mod­ern in­cin­er­a­tor has been in the coun­try since 1997, peo­ple are still cre­mat­ing in tra­di­tional pyres. Those fa­mil­iar with this new al­ter­na­tive are still more com­fort­able fol­low­ing the old way of cre­mat­ing while many oth­ers hardly know about the in­cin­er­a­tor.

How­ever, the old diesel in­cin­er­a­tor was re­placed by an elec­tric one in 2013 be­cause the former re­sulted in cases of half-burnt bod­ies and other com­pli­ca­tions.

Cur­rently, the Hejo cre­ma­tion ground sees around 18-20 fu­ner­als weekly.

Aum Pem, a Thim­phu res­i­dent, who was at Hejo to cre­mate a rel­a­tive, said that though the project is en­vi­ron­ment friendly, peo­ple are not com­fort­able us­ing it. “It may be quick and con­ve­nient but I would al­ways pre­fer to burn the body in the tra­di­tional way.”

Sim­i­larly, Tob­gay, a vis­i­tor at the site, said, in the Bhutanese con­text a prac­tice of col­lect­ing parts of hu­man cra­nium from the ashes af­ter the body is burnt ex­ists but the elec­tric in­cin­er­a­tor burns up al­most all parts of the body. “It will have a ma­jor im­pact on our rich cul­ture and tra­di­tions,” he added.

Some peo­ple think the ashes col­lected from the in­cin­er­a­tor can be used to fol­low the cus­tom­ary pro­ce­dures.

In­ter­est­ingly, an old timer, 62 year old Ap Kipchu feels that the use of in­cin­er­a­tor is en­vi­ron­ment friendly since the ma­chine does not re­quire the use of wood. “Less waste will be gen­er­ated and it is way faster than the tra­di­tional method. Even if the bod­ies are burnt us­ing the ma­chine, the funeral rites are con­ducted in the same man­ner.”

A pri­vate com­pany em­ployee, Tsh­er­ing Yang­den said she heard that in­cin­er­a­tors are for bod­ies that are aban­doned. She feels they are used to take care of un­claimed corpses and fol­low up their last rites. “For this rea­son, I never sug­gest my friends and rel­a­tives to use the in­cin­er­a­tor.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, the care­taker of Hejo cre­ma­tion ground said that about 40-50 un­claimed dead bod­ies have been burnt us­ing elec­tric in­cin­er­a­tor till now.

Yeshi Wangdi said ad­vo­cat­ing peo­ple about the ben­e­fits of wood in­ten­sive cre­ma­tion re­mained un­suc­cess­ful. “There is dis­crim­i­na­tion against those us­ing the in­cin­er­a­tor, even though all groups of peo­ple use it.”

Sev­eral na­tives of Thim­phu are still not fa­mil­iar with the mod­ern in­cin­er­a­tor. Kin­ley Tsh­er­ing, a young grad­u­ate was sur­prised when he heard about the in­cin­er­a­tor. “I have never seen or heard of it. I thought it was a room heat­ing ap­pli­ance,” he said adding that the coun­try is def­i­nitely not ready to adapt to this new sub­sti­tute.

Purna said it has been four months since the in­cin­er­a­tor was last used. “As per records, most peo­ple avail­ing the elec­tric in­cin­er­a­tors are those who have prob­lems get­ting wood per­mit and oth­ers who are in haste,” he added, “The rest are still hes­i­tant to use the mod­ern in­cin­er­a­tor.”

The in­cin­er­a­tors at Hejo were pur­chased from Bangkok, Thai­land at US$ 75,300 by the gov­ern­ment ex­clud­ing the ex­pen­di­ture for ship­ping, trans­porta­tion, charges for fit­ting and in­stal­la­tion.

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