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Date: 06 January 2022 Tags: Climate Change


The body of late Archbishop Desmond Tutu underwent aquamation, a greener alternative to traditional cremation.



The anti-apartheid icon and Nobel peace prize winner recently passed away. His concern and passion for environment protection was well known.



The body of Tutu underwent alkaline hydrolysis instead of cremation as per his last wishes. He was given a state funeral.



  • Aquamation is also known as water cremation, green cremation or chemical cremation. It is also dubbed as flameless cremation.

  • In the process, the body is immersed for a few hours in a mixture of water and a strong alkali in a pressurized metal cylinder. It is then heated to around 150 degree centigrade.

  • The organic materials present in the body will break-down due to action of gentle water flow, temperature and alkalinity.


Remnants of aquamation

  • The process leaves behind bones and a neutral solution known as effluent. This liquid is sterile, and contains salts, sugars, amino acids and peptides. 

  • The aquamation process works in same way as normal burial but the process is sped up dramatically by the chemicals.


The alkaline hydrolysis method

  • The process was developed and patented in 1888 by Amos Herbert Hanson. He was trying to make fertilizers from animal carcass.

  • The process is used in hospitals and universities with donated body programmes. It was first used in the funeral industry, at two funeral homes in Ohio and Florida.


Benefits of aquamation

  • The process uses energy which is five times less than fire. It emits 35% less greenhouse gases than during cremation.

  • The byproduct of the process is usually eco-friendly and can be discharged as normal water. The carbon footprint is also very low.


Desmond Tutu and environment

  • Tutu had great love for environment as we can see in his writings. He was proponent of preventing climate change crisis.

  • Tutu had asked for an eco-friendly funeral process and also cheaper coffin for his final resting place.