The minority Hindu community in Bangladesh's capital is facing severe shortage of cremation grounds with "wholesale encroachment" over the years squeezing the land available for the last rites of the deceased.
The capital has expanded rapidly with a massive growth of population but space has continued to shrink for the dead, a media report said on Saturday.
In a report titled 'Hindus in city face cremation problem', The Daily Star said that "wholesale encroachment" over the years has exposed the minority community to a severe shortage of cremation grounds.
It cites the example of Postogola Mahasmashan, that is recognised as the national cremation ground, that was originally set up on some 180 kathas of land.
"It has now been reduced to only 40 kathas as some re-rolling mills and iron-sheet cutting factories have encroached a large portion of the land," it said, quoting general secretary of Postogola Jatiya Mahasmashan Committee, Babul Das.
He added that another space, the Lalbagh ground, was originally established on 100 kathas of land but only half of it remains because of gradual encroachment over the years.
Established over a century ago, the two cremation grounds are maintained by the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) and a ground established in Sabujbag some 10 years ago is maintained by a Hindu temple managing committee.
According to Hindu leaders, only one cremation ground has been set up in Dhaka since independence, and the number stands at three to cater to city's growing number of Hindus.
No statistics, however, are available on the Hindu population in the capital, but several community leaders claim that it is around 20 per cent of the city's total population of over one crore.
The Postogola cremation ground has a capacity to bury 70 bodies but due to the space constraints, graves are replaced within three months .
"The main problem is to bury children as every single inch of the burial ground has already been used," said Das.
Secretary General of Lalbagh Smashan Unnayan Committee Mongol Ghosh said "the situation in Lalbagh is so depressing that shovelling up to just one foot brings out bones of previously buried children".
It said cremation grounds were also weighed down with numerous problems like water shortage, worn out building, lack of sitting arrangement and toilets while drug peddlers gather there after dusk diminishing the sanctity of the grounds.
According to Hindu custom, bodies of adults are usually cremated while those of children under eight are buried.