Delhi Seeks Help as Indian Capital Faces Wood Shortage at Crematoriums in COVID-19 ‘Tsunami’

On 19 April, Delhi state Chief Arvind Kejriwal said the Indian capital’s health system has reached its limit: “If we don’t impose a lockdown now, we will be looking at a bigger disaster. The lockdown doesn’t end the pandemic but just slows it.”

Delhi’s municipal crematoriums are running out of the wood required for pyres because of the staggering number of coronavirus-related deaths in the city.

The three Delhi Municipal Corporations – North, South and East – which are controlled by the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, have approached the state’s Forest Department with a request to provide crematoriums with wood.

Speaking to Sputnik, a senior official said, on condition of anonymity, that before the second wave hit the Indian capital, the largest crematorium of Delhi, the Nigambodh Ghat, needed about 6,000kg to 8,000kg of wood each day. However, since the latest surge, daily demand has risen to between 80,000kg and 90,000kg.

“The stock of wood in crematoriums is running out very quickly. Because of the soaring number of deaths in the city, we had to create additional makeshift cremation facilities which has pushed the need for wood up significantly. We need the Delhi government’s cooperation to meet the daily wood demand,” North MCD Mayor Jai Prakash said.

Delhi’s forest department confirmed that it has received requests from civic bodies for wood. 

Deputy Conservator of Forests (north division), Aditya Madanpotra, said permission has been granted to cut the branches and tops of at least 500 trees to meet crematoriums’ demands. 

The south division of the forest department has also allowed 200 dead and dried trees to be felled.

However, the East Delhi Municipal Corporation has ordered officials to use dried cow dung as fuel.

“We are asking NGOs, citizen groups and cow shelters to donate cow dung cakes for this purpose,” the EDMC’s mayor, Nirmal Jain, announced.

The civic bodies have also written to the Delhi government to ensure that the supply of wood from neighbouring states can reach the city without interruption.

Meanwhile, functionaries have criticised Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government for concealing how many deaths occurred because of Covid.

According to corporation officials, the data collected from the 26 crematoriums it runs shows that 3,096 cremations of COVID victims were conducted between 18 April and 24 April. However, the death toll released by the Delhi government shows 1,938 fatalities (in the same period).  

According to the Delhi government, the capital recorded 24,149 new coronavirus cases and 381 deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours. Delhi is under lockdown until 3 May. 

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