The city will have to wait longer for environment-friendly piped-natural gas (PNG) crematoriums, despite a year’s delay already, the mechanical and electrical (M&E) department of the BMC plans to float tenders for gas-based furnaces next month. In addition, with the absence of connectivity between the Mahanagar Gas Limited’s main pipeline and the crematoriums, the process might take longer.
“The plan of conversion came after we realised that natural gas was cheaper than wood or electricity. Unlike wood, its usage will not put pressure on the rapidly declining fossil fuel. This is a perfect alternative for wood-based or highly expensive electricity-based crematoria,” said Dr Shantaram Naik, Deputy Executive Health officer, BMC.
The civic body, in its upcoming budget, has allotted Rs 20 crore for maintenance and beautification of cemeteries, as well as repair and conversion of crematoriums into PNG. According to the civic health department, the conversion will be done in two phases with eight crematoria.
An official from the M&E department said, “Last year, there was a delay because the crematoriums were located at a distance from the pipeline and it was difficult to direct gas towards crematoriums. Now, we have located nine crematoriums which are within the 100 m range of the Mahanagar pipeline.”
The nine crematoriums — Mulund composite, Dahanu (Borivali), Daulat Nagar, Amboli (Andheri), Charai (Chembur), Sion, Shivaji Park, Babhai (Borivali) and Underai (Malad) — will be converted into PNG services in a phase-wise manner. While initially a single gas-based pyre will be installed, slowly more pyres will be added to replace the wood and electric ones.
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According to M&E department’s estimates, a cost of Rs 65 lakh will be incurred to install a single gas-based furnace at the seven sites. At the two remaining sites — Underai and Babhai — which do not have an electrical furnace, Rs 1.2 crore will be spent to install two new gas-based furnaces.
The city has a total of 197 crematoriums, of which 61 are municipal and 136 are private. Of the total, there are 11 electric crematoriums.
According to Naik, the funds allocated for crematoria will be utilised for beautification, repairs and conversion. “In Phase II, we will convert crematoriums that are beyond the 100 m range of the Mahanagar gas pipeline. The conversion of Phase I will begin this year, however, no time period has been set for its completion,” he said.
In the 2013-2014 budget, Rs 2 crore had been allotted for beautification and Rs 4.94 crore for conversion of wood-based crematoria. However, no work was undertaken. While civic authorities had earlier assured that the work to lay gas pipes would begin after October last year, and civil work inside the crematoriums by March this year, a significant delay will be observed as pipes have still not been laid down.