Nepalese temple mulls electric cremations

Kathmandu, Nepal – Nepal is looking to phase out the centuries-old tradition of open-air cremations by building a new electric crematorium at its main Hindu temple, authorities said Wednesday.

For hundreds of years, families in majority-Hindu Nepal have brought their dead to the world-famous Pashupatinath temple to be cremated on wooden pyres by the side of the country's holiest river.

But the Pashupati Area Development Trust, which looks after the sacred site in the capital Kathmandu, said the practice was outdated, time consuming and environmentally unfriendly.

"We have decided to come up with electric crematoriums for the cremation of dead bodies by the side of the Bagmati river because it makes sense in this day and age," senior director Shyam Shekhar Jha told AFP.

"At least 30 to 35 bodies are cremated in the Pashupati area every day. Each body takes at least three hours to burn and around 300 kilograms (650 pounds) of wood. It's very time consuming and environment unfriendly."

Jha said an explosion in the population of Kathmandu had led to a large increase in the number of bodies being burned at the temple.

But he said the city's Hindus would still be able to carry out cremation rituals under the proposed new system.

"We will still have the traditional way of cremating using firewood as an option," he added.

"Hindus in India have already adapted to this technology in some places and there have been no complaints."

The Trust has already set aside around 600,000 dollars to build an electric crematorium and launched a global tender, Jha said, adding that so far the response from people at the temple had been positive.

"I think they are aware of the fact that wood cremation is not a viable option any more," he said. "People are used to the introduction of new technology."