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Green ONGC initiative for after-life

Priscilla Jebaraj

Harit Moksha will use 60 per cent less wood


Fuel-efficient wood-based crematorium affordable

26,500 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions can be avoided


NEW DELHI: If you're environmentally conscious in life, how about the after-life? Eight cities will now get cremation systems in Oil and Natural Gas Corporation's (ONGC) Harit Moksha (Green Heaven) initiative.

With two lakh hectares of forest area being felled annually just for burning bodies in the rites of death, the Harit Moksha systems, which promise to use 60 per cent less wood, could be significant. So far, ONGC plans to set up 30 units in eight cities — including 10 in Mumbai and six in Delhi — at a cost of Rs.9.19 crore, in collaboration with the NGO Mokshda Paryavaran Evam Van Suraksha Samiti (MPEVSS).

“These units need to be installed on a large enough scale to make a difference,” said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, as he inaugurated the initiative on Thursday. He admitted that he had initially supported the use of electric crematoria, an idea which had not found many takers. A fuel-efficient wood-based crematorium, on the other hand, is more culturally acceptable, and has the added bonus of being more affordable for poorer families.

Mr. Ramesh welcomed ONGC's corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts and suggested that the Public Service Unit (PSU) spend its surplus CSR budget of Rs. 200 crore by partnering with his Ministry's afforestation efforts. “If I can get five PSUs like yours, I have my entire Rs.1,000 crore budget,” he noted.

The MPEVSS, which will implement the project on a turnkey basis over the next three years, estimates that it would help in saving 13,700 tonnes of wood and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26,500 tonnes every year. Air and river pollution would also be reduced.

Mr. Ramesh was not averse to eliciting some wry political laughs from his audience. As he prepared to leave for the meeting of the Group of Ministers on Coal to discuss the controversial issue of coal mining in heavily forested areas, he quipped that “many people at the meeting would be hoping that I would be the first candidate for this Harit Moksha, and hoping to get rid of the Harit Mantralaya.”

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