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Recently the body of two Nobel Peace Prize winners Anglican archbishop and anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu underwent aquamation in Cape Town, South Africa. Aquamation is a green alternative to traditional cremation methods. Tutu wished his body could underwent alkaline hydrolysis instead of traditional cremation methods.

In Aquamation or alkaline hydrolysis process, 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 followed by heating to around 150 degrees centigrade. Albany Medical College in 1993 installed the first commercial system post which the process continued to be in use by the hospitals and universities with donated body programmes.

Aquamation Process and Cremation


  • This process is considered as an environment friendly way of disposing a body.
  • The breakdown of the organic materials gets accentuated due to the combination of gentle water flow, temperature, and alkalinity.
  • Alkaline hydrolysis is defined as “flameless cremation” by the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) which is an international non-profit organisation.
  • Aquamation process is also known as water cremation, green cremation, or chemical cremation.
  • This process leaves behind bone fragments and a neutral liquid called effluent.
  • The effluent is sterile containing salts, sugars, amino acids, and peptides.
  • Once the process is completed, there is no tissue and no DNA left.
  • This process being a greener alternative uses significantly less fuel with an overall lower carbon footprint than the cremation.
  • As per Resomation (a UK-based firm) , the aquamation process uses energy that is five times less than fire and reduces the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during cremation by 35 % .

Desmond Tutu

  • He was one of South Africa՚s most well-known human rights activists who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his effort towards resolving and ending apartheid.
  • He is known as the voice of the voiceless.
  • Tutu was appointed as the chairperson of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission after the election of Nelson Mandela as the nation՚s first Black president.
  • Desmond Tutu as a chairman formulated his objective as “a democratic and just society without racial divisions.”
  • He also set forward some points as minimum demands:
    • Equal civil rights for all
    • Abolition of South Africa՚s passport laws
    • A Communication system of education
    • The cessation w. r. t forced deportation from South Africa to the so-called “homelands.”

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