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Arth - Last Rite Done Right

This idea is a part of 360 Challenge 2019

Shalaka Patil
July 25, 2019

In India, about 8.2 million people are cremated every year using traditional funeral pyre. Each such pyre consumes around 500 kg of wood equivalent to 2 fully grown trees and takes around 6 hours to completely degrade the body. For cremation purposes alone, 3.7 million tonnes of firewood is consumed every year leading to deforestation of 1500 - 2000 of forest area. 

Deforestation on such large scale has huge environmental implications ranging from deterioration of air quality, rise in greenhouse gases and disbalance in the carbon cycle. The National Green Tribunal directed the Environment Ministry and Delhi government in 2016 to initiate programmes to provide alternative modes of cremation, stating the traditional method of wooden pyres emitted hazardous pollutants into the environment. 

Electric and CNG crematorium are available alternatives to the conventional system but public acceptance of this mode has been very poor. This is mainly because of high capital and recurring cost and the fact that users are not able to perform important rituals in this mode. 

We conducted an extensive gaushala survey of more than 40 gaushalas which had as many as 8500 cows that revealed a big issue of cow dung disposal. This excessive amount of cow dung is either drained into the river stream or sent to landfills resulting in pollution. 

Catering to both the problems, Arth decided to use cow dung as an alternative fuel for the cremations. 

We solve these problems through an innovative and novel approach. 

  • Cow dung based logs reduce the dependency on wood and thus help in controlling deforestation. 
  • Creating value for waste cow dung which otherwise pollutes the environment. 
  • Cow dung is considered pious in India and the log like structure increases customer acceptability. 
  • These logs can be used in existing pyre systems and do not require any additional establishment cost. 



Our model has been optimized for profit while generating social impact at each step. For each cremation, cow dung used gives the profit and side by side social impact is generated which can be described as follows - 


  • Environmental Impact: Using waste cow dung as the raw material for fuel has the following benefits

    • Reducing water pollution by preventing cow dung from going into drains 
    • Preventing methane emissions from waste cow dung heaps left in open.
  • Financial Impact: Empowering of gaushalas through profit sharing and reducing the burden of cow dung disposal.


  • Environmental Impact:

    • Through the sales of logs, fuelwood used in cremations would be replaced, thereby, reducing deforestation 
    • Our product produces fewer emissions per cremation compared to wood, thereby, reducing air pollution.
  • Financial Impact: Empowering of our partner organisations - funeral services, NGOs & old age homes through profit sharing.



Our venture in its entirety will bring about a disruption in the way cremations are done in the country while also boosting the economy by converting waste into a resource. 

Every day, nearly 295 cremations are conducted in Delhi itself. Out of these, around 90% are open wood cremations, our target market. Hence, there are roughly 97000 target cremations per year. With a modest amount of 250 kg cow dung per cremation and rate of our logs being ₹5.5 per kg, it translates to market potential of ₹133 million per year in Delhi. 




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