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Falling short of space, China offers money to bury dead at sea

world Updated: Mar 31, 2015 00:04 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times

China as it turns out is increasingly falling short of space – for its dead. And, in a bid to check the demand for land to bury the ashes, Beijing has decided to double the money it was already giving to citizens as financial incentive for burials at sea.

State media reported that Beijing recently announced that it was doubling the grant for sea burial from 2,000 Yuan (about Rs 20,000) to 4,000 Yuan (about Rs 40,000).

It will also allow up to six members of every family to accompany the dead to the nearest shore for the final rites at the sea. Earlier, only two were allowed.

According to Chinese tradition, the dead are supposed to be buried at cemeteries next to their ancestors.

The announcement comes days before one of China’s most important annual rituals, the Tomb Sweeping Day, when family members are expected to visit the graves of their ancestors to pay their respects. It falls on April 5 this year.

Li Hongbing, deputy head of the civil affairs bureau of Beijing said around 1,700 sea funerals were held last year.

The numbers for cremation were much higher: 80,000 annually since 2009 and more than 90,000 in 2014.

Li said that at present Beijing, a city of more than 20 million, has 33 cemeteries that have not been expanded in years. “Therefore, tomb land (where the ashes are buried) has become very limited, leading to the gradual popularity of eco-friendly burial ways such as sea burial,” Li said.

According to Global Times newspaper, the average cost of funerals, including a memorial ceremony and burial in Beijing is 42,837 Yuan (about Rs 4,28,370).

“Rural Beijingers spend an average of 22,750 Yuan (about Rs 2,29,368) while urban Beijingers spend 80,000 Yuan (about Rs 8,06,571),” according to a government report.

“Beijing residents have complained about overpriced graveyards for several years, as the cost of a one-square-meter grave can cost hundreds of thousands of Yuan, several times more costly than the city’s already-expensive housing,” the newspaper reported.