General Studies IIIEnvironment and Ecology



Recently, 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.

What is aquamation?

  • It is a green alternative to traditional cremation methods.
  • This “flameless cremation” is considered to be an environmentally friendly way to dispose of a body, the process is also known as water cremation, green cremation or chemical cremation.
  • 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.

Significant for Desmond Tutu

It is learnt that Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who passed away on 26 December, had requested that his funeral not be ostentatious and that his body not be cremated by flame. Instead, Tutu reportedly requested aquamation.

He advocated for boycotts of oil and fossil fuel-producing firms and called for greater investment in clean energy and low-carbon products. He also sought to amplify the voices of young climate activists.

He gave many speeches and wrote many articles about the need to act to tackle the climate crisis.

In 2007, he wrote a piece titled “This Fatal Complacency” for the Guardian in which he addressed the worrying impact that climate change was having in the global south and on poor communities.

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.
  • When Nelson Mandela was elected as the nation’s first Black president—he appointed Tutu chairperson of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
    • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a court-like restorative justice body assembled in South Africa in 1996 after the end of apartheid.
  • As the chairman, Desmond Tutu has formulated his objective as “a democratic and just society without racial divisions”, and has set forward the following points as minimum demands:
    • Equal civil rights for all
    • The abolition of South Africa’s passport laws
    • Common system of education
    • The cessation of forced deportation from South Africa to the so-called “homelands”.


The body of Nobel Peace Prize winning Anglican archbishop and anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu underwent aquamation, a green alternative to traditional cremation methods, in Cape Town.

Source: Indian Express

You can find many articles on ENVIRONMENT (part of GS III) in our website. Go through these articles share with your friends and post your views in comment section.


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