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What is Aquamation?


The Nobel Peace Prize winner Anglican archbishop and anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu died. He was very passionate about protecting the environment and taking necessary actions.

  • In concurrence of his passion to save the environment, his body underwent aquamation, a green alternative to traditional cremation methods.
  • The process of aquamation uses energy which is five times less than fire. It also reduces by about 35% the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted during cremation.

About Aquamation:

  • It is a process in which the body of the deceased is immersed for a few hours in a mixture of water and a strong alkali in a pressurized metal cylinder and heated to around 150 degree centigrade.
  • The combination of gentle water flow, temperature and alkalinity accentuate the breakdown of the organic materials.
  • The process leaves behind bone fragments and a neutral liquid called effluent.
  • The effluent is sterile, and contains salts, sugars, amino acids and peptides.
  • There is no tissue and no DNA left after the process completes.
  • The process was developed and patented in 1888 by Amos Herbert Hanson, a farmer who was trying to develop an ingenious way to make fertilizer from animal carcasses.
  • The first commercial system was installed at Albany Medical College in 1993.
  • Thereafter, the process continued to be in use by hospitals and universities with donated body programmes.
  • This process is referred to as alkaline hydrolysis or as Cremation Association of North America (CANA) (an international non-profit organisation) calls it flameless cremation.
  • The process is also known as water cremation, green cremation or chemical cremation.

Desmond Tutu:

  • Desmond Tutu is one of South Africa’s most well-known human rights activists, winning the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in resolving and ending apartheid.
  • He is known as the voice of the voiceless for Black South Africans.