UNESCO expresses concern over Pashupati crematorium plans

UNESCO has expressed its concern over the ongoing construction of the first electric crematorium on the banks of Bagmati river.

Kathmandu: UNESCO has expressed its concern over the ongoing construction of the first electric crematorium on the banks of Bagmati river in the premises of Pashupatinath Temple, the fifth century Hindu shrine, aimed at reducing pollution in the surrounding area.

The United Nations body that looks after cultural affairs, UNESCO, has expressed concern over the construction of the huge chimney of the crematorium by the Pashupati Area Development Project (PADT), which it says would overlook the pagoda style historic temple.

Pashupatinath Temple, situated in the eastern Kathmandu is a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural site, which attracts hundreds of thousands of devotees from Nepal and India annually.

The project, which started one and half years ago at the cost of Nepalese Rs 110 million, is due to complete in another six months period.

However, PADT authorities have said they would address the concerns raised by UNESCO.

Govinda Tandon, the chief of the PADT, that looks after the affairs of the Pashupatinath Temple said, "Though the crematorium is a huge structure with the capacity to burn two dead bodies at a time, it will not diminish the beauty of Pashupatinath Temple, rather it helps to control pollution in the area and reduce the consumption of firewood which is used to burn dead bodies as per the Hindu traditions."

Tandon rejected the UNESCO`s claim that the chimney would have an adverse visual impact, saying that the chimney is just 25 metres in height and they will plant green trees in the surrounding area to camouflage the structure.

Calcutta`s Endowment Company has bagged the contract of supplying Nepalese Rs 2 crore worth crematorium.

In the Arya Ghat, which lies in the premises of Pashupatinath Temple, everyday around 35-40 dead bodies are burnt through traditional method, which consumes a huge amount of firewood, causing damage to the environment.

The smoke coming out of the traditional crematorium is causing a huge smoke pollution problem in the area as well as polluting the Bagmati river, where the ashes are thrown, said Narottam Vaidya, former Treasurer of the PADT.

Besides, it is also causing destruction of forest for the firewood, he said.

There will be less pollution and less consumption of firewood after the crematorium is constructed, thereby reducing environmental pollution to some extent, Vaidya said.

"The height of the chimney will be reduced if need be and we are using modern technology in the crematorium so the smoke produced by the Chimney will not be allowed to mix in the environment", Tandon said.

Special technology will be used so as to conceal the smoke thereby causing minimum impact to the surrounding environment, he said.


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