July 10, 2018 10:09:38 am
With the shortage of cemetery space looming large over much of the country, Jiangxi — a province with a population of 4.5 crore — has banned burials in some of its cities asking people to go in for cremations.
Chinese papers reported that authorities in Jiangxi approved on June 28 the applications of Yingtan, Yichun, Shangrao and Ji’an cities to adopt cremation in the regions. The rule however gives leeway for religious practices and states that cremations should take place “except for special cases defined by national laws and regulations.
The traditional practice in China is to bury the dead. However as this takes up considerable land, the Chinese government over the past few decades had been promoting cremations. The ashes of the dead were however collected and than interred into a tomb which required a smaller space. Due to an aging society and rapid urbanization, even this practice has been putting a strain on China’s land resources. In 2017 there were 9.86 million deaths with a crude death rate of 7.11 per thousand.
In 2016 there were about 6.47 million burial plots in China of which 42.2 million were occupied according to report published on China’s funeral industry by Ouzi a data analysis firm. The report states that all the available plots may be occupied by mid 2022. The Chinese Government meanwhile has stated that it believes that the existing cemetery plots for graves in most provinces would be used up in 10 years.
“The four cities should accelerate the construction of cremation installations and prohibit funerals that put remains into coffins in the earth,” the order speceifying cremetation in these cities says.
Alarmed at this looming crisis earlier this year nine ministries including the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the National Development and Reform Commission, had come out with a joint directive seeking promotion of smaller graves and eco-friendly alternatives, such as sea burials and scattering ashes over flowers. It also wants 50 per cent of funerals in China to be eco friendly by 2020.
China has also been promoting sea burials where unlike tradition where the ashes of the deceased are kept in smaller tombs, they can be interred into the sea.
Earlier this year it had launched its first dedicated sea burial ship.
The concept of Sea burial is recent in China and two of its premiers Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaping had chosen to have their ashes scattered at sea. It was authoused as a form of burial in China in 1991 and so far 40,000 people have opted for this form of funeral.
In Beijing three percent of all total funerals are those where people prefer to have their ashes interred in the sea rather than in a tomb.
Provincial governments in some cases provide money to those who opt for sea burials. In Wenling, in Zhejiang province people over 70 in Wenling who sign a contract for sea burial receive monthly remuneration based on age-from 100 yuan ($15.80) per month for those over 70, to 400 yuan for people over 100.
Interestingly in cities like Beijing a conventional funeral and a fixed resting place can cost as much as 80,000 yuans.
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