COVID-19 impact: Health risk at Shivaji Park as locals choking on crematorium smoke

Updated: Jun 01, 2020, 15:45 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

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Gloves and masks discarded outside residential buildings in Shivaji Park by relatives of patients brought to the crematorium. Pic/Ashish Raje
Gloves and masks discarded outside residential buildings in Shivaji Park by relatives of patients brought to the crematorium. Pic/Ashish Raje

With the surge in the number of cases of COVID-19 in G North ward (Dadar area), the bulk of the bodies of deceased patients is being taken to the Shivaji Park crematorium. The sharp increase in the number of bodies being cremated, however, has become a health hazard for local residents who have raised concerns about the thick black smoke emanating from the crematorium's chimney.

Rajini Sorap, 50, is among the many residents who live in the buildings opposite the crematorium and even though she has been living there for more than 35 years, the situation has never been this serious.

"The black smoke comes out of the chimney all day and because of the direction of the wind, the foul odour and ash fly straight into our homes. Due to this, we have to keep our windows closed all day even in this heat," she said. Sorap is a resident of Ripple building, where many flats have kitchen windows facing the crematorium.

Another resident of the building, Kiran Salvi, 65, pointed out that due to the increased number of bodies of COVID-19 patients, the crematorium runs without a break.

"From 5 am till 11 pm, black smoke billows out and since the ash is from COVID bodies, we are worried about our health. Also, relatives of the deceased patients wait outside our gate and throw their masks and gloves on the road. The BMC should sanitise the area," said Salvi, adding that residents are scared to step out to even buy groceries. He and other residents claimed that no one from the BMC had come to clean the area in more than two weeks.

Building wrapped in plastic
Residents of the neighbouring building, Tukaram Smruti, have opted for a plastic wrap to protect themselves. Nilesh Bhujbal, a resident of the building, said the ash has an oily texture and sticks to all surfaces. "The particles stick to clothes and on cars. We have wrapped our building with plastic because of the smoke. The number of bodies will only grow, so the BMC has to fix this problem now," he said.

The residents approached Shiv Sena corporator and former mayor Vishakha Raut last month who took the issue up with the G North ward office.

"The furnace runs at 600 degrees and there should be a break of 2-6 hours between bodies. As there are no breaks, it is difficult to regulate the heat and the temperature rises to 900 degrees, which causes the thick black smoke. The bodies need to be diverted to other crematoriums so that there is some break," she said. Raut said the majority of the bodies is being brought to Shivaji Park possibly due to the proximity to the sea where people immerse the ashes.

Raut said she has told ward officials to carry out necessary repairs and put a filter in the chimney.

"It is a difficult situation and while we have to be respectful of the dead, we also have to take care of people living in the area. I support the people and if this issue is not resolved at the earliest, I will demand that the crematorium be shut down till repairs are carried out," she said.

170 bodies cremated
Civic officials from G North ward said that on a daily basis, around 18-20 bodies are being cremated at Shivaji Park and so far more than 170 bodies of COVID patients have been cremated.

When contacted, Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner of G North ward, said most of the bodies from South Mumbai come to Shivaji Park as it is easily accessible. "After getting complaints, we had installed a filter and we are keeping a close watch on the situation. Earlier, we were getting around 30-35 bodies a day. But now after 20 bodies, we tell people to go elsewhere," he said.

No. of bodies being cremated at Shivaji Park every day

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