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As Covid-19 continues to kill, demand for firewood shoots up in Bengaluru

Officials are procuring wood from timber contractors to keep the pyres burning while the BBMP has also chipped in
Last Updated : 04 May 2021, 02:28 IST
Last Updated : 04 May 2021, 02:28 IST
Last Updated : 04 May 2021, 02:28 IST
Last Updated : 04 May 2021, 02:28 IST

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The open cremation system adopted by the government to avoid rush at crematoria has resulted in an unprecedented demand for firewood in Bengaluru, where the pandemic blow has fallen the hardest in the second wave.

Officials are procuring wood from timber contractors to keep the pyres burning while the BBMP has also chipped in, supplying 540 tonnes of firewood with a promise to arrange more.

The number of daily cremations at Tavarekere and Giddenahalli, each with 50 burning platforms, has crossed 120 with the pyres burning for more than 14 hours, as the administration tries to ensure that ambulances with bodies do not queue up in front of the electric crematoria.

“We are leaving nothing to chance when it comes to procuring materials for cremation," said Manjunath, Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru Urban.

"At least 20 loads of firewood is being brought to these facilities every day to meet possible requirements in the coming days. The aim is to provide decent burial for victims whose families are distraught by the wait."

The facility at Tavarekere was built in three days while two more days were required for the inaccessible Giddenahalli ground, which required construction of a road, drilling of borewells and other facilities. Cremations start at 7.30 am and go on till 11 in the night.

Officials in the district administration estimate that 150 to 300 kg of wood is needed to cremate a body. “The body of a heavily built person requires up to 300 kg of wood. Besides, each cremation requires about 6 litres of diesel, 5 kg of sugar and about 500 to 600 grams of camphor and ghee,” a senior official said.

BBMP Deputy Conservator of Forest H S Ranganathaswamy said the four depots of the civic body have supplied 520 tonnes of firewood. “We have another 200 tonnes left. We will soon launch a drive to identify dry branches and trim the trees to provide as much supply as possible,” he said.

To a question, Manjunath said they have already roped in the Karnataka State Forest Industries Corporation and private timber contractors.

“We have planned for future requirements. In fact, some of the iron platforms to place the body have been sourced from Gujarat as we didn’t have the material that can withstand heat,” he said.

Hazards

Interacting with relatives of the Covid victims has also led to some staffers getting infected. “Three staffers tested positive. Thankfully, others tested negative. We need workers to clear the queue as we expect more bodies in the coming days,” an official said.

Each cremation takes about six hours following which the platform has to be cleaned to make way for the next body. The role of staffers has become crucial as any shortage will lead to problems. Officials monitoring the activities and staffers said they wear PPE gear for more than seven hours.

The deputy commissioner said food and lodging facilities have been provided for staffers and additional precautions are being taken to keep them safe.

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Published 03 May 2021, 19:30 IST

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