8 January 2022.
On January 8, 2022, the body of Nobel Peace Prize winning Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu underwent aquamation in Cape Town. Aquamation is a green alternative to traditional cremation methods.
What is aquamation?
- Aquamation, also called as alkaline hydrolysis, is a process in which the dead body is immersed in a mixture of water and a strong alkali in pressurized metal cylinder, for a few hours. It is then heated to about 150 degrees centigrade.
- Combination of gentle water flow, alkalinity and temperature accentuate the breakdown of organic materials.
- As per Cremation Association of North America (CANA), alkaline hydrolysis is a “flameless cremation”.
- This process is considered as an environment friendly way of disposing of a body.
- It is also dubbed as water cremation, green cremation or chemical cremation.
What is left behind the water cremation?
- The process of water cremation leaves behind bone fragments and neutral liquid called effluent.
- Decomposition through this process is similar to what happens during burial, just sped up dramatically by using chemicals.
- The effluent is sterile, and it comprises of amino acids, salts, sugars, and peptides. No tissue and DNA is left after this process.
- The neutral liquid is discharged with all other wastewater and it can be added to the water systems.
When was this process developed?
- Amos Herbert Hanson had developed and patented this process in 1888.
- He was a farmer who was trying to develop an ingenious way of making fertilizer from animal carcasses.
- However, the first commercial system was installed in 1993 at Albany Medical College.
- After that, this process continued to be in use by hospitals and universities. In 2011, this process was used in funeral industry in Ohio and Florida.
Significance of Aquamation
- Aquamation uses five times less energy than fire.
- It reduces the amount of greenhouse gases by about 35%, as compared to other way of cremation.
Why did Tutu’s body undergo water cremation?
Because, he had always been passionate about protecting the environment. He had always wanted a simple funeral ceremony. He wished for a cheap coffin and eco-friendly cremation.