HindustanTimes Thu,02 Oct 2014

Holy smoke, pyres harming environment

Vanita Srivastava, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 29, 2013
First Published: 00:31 IST(29/10/2013) | Last Updated: 00:38 IST(29/10/2013)

Across South Asia, a disturbing and hitherto unaccounted amount of smoke is making its way stealthily into the air — the kind of smoke people chose to revere, inhale and quietly ignore. This is the smoke from tonnes of incense sticks in temples, mosques and graveyards as also from burning the dead in open funeral pyres, reports the journal Nature India.


The smoke has been adding significantly to the region’s ‘brown carbon’ and ‘volatile organic compound’ emissions but remains completely missing from national health indices or international climate models

Citing the study done by the scientists from Pandit Ravishankar Shukla University (PRSU) in Raipur, Chattisgarh along with colleagues from the Desert Research Institute (DRI) in Reno, Nevada, USA  the article in the journal  reveals how much these religious practices are actually contributing to national emissions in the region

It turns out that the funeral pyres alone could be contributing as much as 92 Gg/year (Giga grams per year) of light-absorbing carbon aerosols. This, they say, is equivalent to almost 23 percent of the total carbonaceous aerosol mass produced by human-burnt fossil fuels, and 10 percent of biofuels in the South Asian region.

Additionally, samples collected from marriage ceremonies, Muslim graveyards, Hindu and Buddhist temples in Chattisgarh state of India indicate emissions of massive quantities of carcinogenic volatile organic compounds(VOC)

Their study on funeral pyre emissions in India and Nepal pointed out that over South Asia, one could expect not just black carbon (or soot) but brown carbon also playing a major warming effect and subsequently impacting the climate.

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