Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Jan 14:
An improved modern cremation facility was inaugurated at Swargadwar in Odisha’s pilgrim town Puri today by local MLA and chairman of the Nabakalebar Committee Maheswar Mohanty.
The facility has a chimney to ensure that fumes from the burning corpses do not pollute the immediate surrounding. Earlier, corpses at Swargadwar were cremated in the open as per traditional practice causing pollution.
Following a complaint with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) over pollution caused due to burning of bodies in the open at Swargadwar, the NGT had ordered the construction of an improved facility to prevent pollution.
The body of one Sabitri Sahu (71), wife of late Sankarshan Sahu of Gopa village under Aul police limits from Kendrapara district, was the first to be cremated at the improved facility.
Swargadwar, which literally means “gateway to heaven”, is one of the most sacred crematoriums for the Hindus in the country. It is believed that a person cremated here gets easy access to heaven and is relieved from the cycle of births and rebirths and attains moksha (salvation).
Basing on the belief, relatives of the dead from far off places come here to cremate their dead with the hope that their dear one gets a place in heaven.
On December 23 last year, the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) had planted 60 saplings inside the Swargdwar following NGT’s ultimatum to ensure greenery and functioning of an environment-friendly chimney at the crematorium. The board was required to file the compliance report within 15 days.
In January 2013, the NGT asked the state government to conduct a survey at Swargadwar and redesign the chimney to check pollution in the Holy Town. A 50 feet chimney, designed by the pollution board, was set up at a cost of Rs 70 lakh.
According to OSPCB, smoke generated from the crematorium affects the ambient air quality. As a result, particulate matter (PM) at Swargadwar soars to 727 microgram per metre cube against the permissible limit of 100.
Around 30 bodies are cremated at the crematorium, which has eight chullahs, every day. Smoke emanating from burning of body partscan cause pulmonary diseases, according to OSPCB officials.
A green campaigner Subhas Datta had filed a petition in 2013 with the NGT, which has been monitoring the issue since then.