Explainer: What is aquamation process undertaken for Archbishop Desmond Tutu's cremation?  

WION Web Team
London Published: Jan 03, 2022, 02:20 PM(IST)

Reverend Allan Boesak pays respect during the requiem mass of South African anti-Apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on Saturday. Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was cremated recently. In a private family service, his ashes were interred at St George's Cathedral on Sunday morning. For Tutu’s cremation, a new process known as aquamation, was undertaken. In it, the body seems to have been getting reduced to dust with the help of water. Let’s get to know more about it 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was cremated recently. In a private family service, his ashes were interred at St George's Cathedral on Sunday morning.  

For Tutu’s cremation, a new process known as aquamation, was undertaken.   

In it, the body seems to have been getting reduced to dust with the help of water. The process is being touted as an environmentally friendly way of cremation.  

Also Read: South African Parliament building in Cape Town catches fire

Aquamation was introduced in South Africa in 2019, a report said. It is authorised in only a few countries.  

Let’s get to know more about the process.  

 

What is aquamation?  

Aquamation, or alkaline hydrolysis, is actually a cremation by water and not fire.  

In it, for three to four hours, the body of a deceased is immersed in a mixture of water and a strong alkali, such as potassium hydroxide. This is done in a pressurised metal cylinder and heated to around 150 degrees Celsius.  

The process liquifies everything except for the bones. They are then dried with the help of an oven and reduced to white dust. Finally, it is placed in an urn and handed over to the grieving relatives.  

 

Why is it beneficial?  

It is environment-friendly as less greenhouse gases are emitted. Over 90% energy is saved in comparison to the traditional methods.  

Aquamation uses five times less energy than fire and also reduces emissions of greenhouse gases in a funeral by around 35%, said a UK-based firm Resomation.   

Also Read: In remembering Tutu, South Africa reckons with lasting challenges

Not just this, around 20% to 30% more ash remains are obtained in the process.  

The water also seems to be a gentler way to make the final journey than flames.  

 

How and when was it developed?  

It was first developed in the early 1990s. It started off as a way to discard the bodies of animals, which were used in experiments.   

(With inputs from agencies) 

Read in App