Facility: After an artificial lake washed away the existing crematorium four years ago, people of Nganglam dunkhag have been cremating bodies in the open.

The flooding of the artificial lake along river Kerong washed away the old crematorium’s kitchen and choekhang (prayer room) along with a section of land and road.

Located about four kilometers from Nganglam town on the way to Chenkari bazaar, the crematorium was built on a 50 decimal land at a cost of Nu 400,000.

A week ago when one of the residents lost his mother in-law, the first thing he was worried about was her funeral because he wanted to give her a dignified cremation ceremony.

Another resident Jigme said they have to clear the land, prepare the kilkhor (alter), toilet, kitchen and the pyre themselves.

“It is also not appropriate to cremate in an open space right below the road with people travelling between Nganglam and Chenkari bazaar,” another resident Shacha, said. “We really need a crematorium so that we don’t have to cremate near the river or clear the forest.”

Many said it has been years since the incident but neither the dungkhag administration nor any concerned agency has initiated to establish a new crematorium, which they say is a basic requirement in a community.

Another resident Tenzin said it is time the dungkhag administration acted on it because even the old crematorium was constructed by Norbugang gewog.

Given the persuasiveness of strong religious beliefs, residents are worried that a continuous use of the present area for cremation might create another disaster in the community.

Many believe that the artificial lake was formed after the crematorium was constructed, which is believed to have dirtied the place and disturbed a local deity.

This is why, a resident said that it was the wrath of the local deity that caused the lake to flood and wash off the only crematorium. “Many people dirty the place and river, which could upset the local deity again,” a resident said.

Others said that the Nganglam-Panbang highway construction located right above the crematorium area caused landslides, which washed down the debris to river Kerong and formed a lake.

Meanwhile, Nganglam Dungpa Tshewang Tobgay who joined office a month ago agreed with the people’s concern and said that there is definitely a need for one.

He said it was surprising that no proposal was made to have a new one from the administration or people for this many years.

“But we’ll have to have local people’s help to identify a new land and the administration would definitely support and propose for budget after consulting with the dzongkhag administration,” he said. “I’ve already informed the people and the thromde theumi to identify the land as soon as possible.”

Thromde Thuemi Ugyen Dorji said they are still trying to identify a new area. “We’ve identified a new place behind the army camp that was used as cremation ground some decades ago but villagers of Dezamo in Chokhorling gewog objected,” he said, adding the villagers complained there are settlements and they wouldn’t want a crematorium near the village.

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Nganglam