New approaches to burial space crisis

2013-10-18 00:00

WITH a shortage of burial space in South Africa’s big cities, authorities plan to professionalise the burial industry.

Cremation, alkaline hydrolysis, sea burials, grave recycling and mausoleums as alternatives to traditional graves topped the agenda in a two-day national conference of the SA Cemeteries Association in Durban.

The cities agreed they should have a drive to convince communities to accept the new ways of burying their love ones, because the shortage of burial ground is so dire.

The eThekwini Municipality is among the cities facing a serious shortage of burial space. Nine years ago the city established six cemeteries with a capacity for 60 000 new graves in an attempt to alleviate the problem.

However, the grave shortages continued and the city started to explore other means, including recycling graves older than 10 years, or those without tombstones.

At the moment there are 65 cemetries in eThekwini. Communities are, however, objecting strongly to the city’s plans to re-use graves.

Pietermaritzburg’s three major municipal cemeteries in operation — Mountain Rise, Azalea and Willowfountain — also face the same problems. The city had planned to build another cemetery, Hollingwood, but the move is being rejected by residents of Sobantu township, who insist that the land should rather be used for building houses.

eThekwini municipal head of parks, recreation and culture Thembinkosi Ngcobo yesterday said with about 1,4 million people buried in the city, they are only left with burial space in Inanda and Illovu.

Ngcobo said the problem was not one experienced by eThekwini alone.

Ekurhuleni Metro in Gauteng for example is looking at burying family members in one grave.

“All municipalities have serious challenges. And we want to professionalise the issue of burying people.”

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