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Local cemeteries promote land-saving burials

LOCAL cemeteries, some already running out of space, are trying eco-friendly burials and persuading people to give up earth burial.

As the Chinese believe the Winter solstice day, which falls on December 21 this year, is one of the best days to open a grave, hundreds of ash urns will be interned in each cemetery on that day.

Multimedia burial and biodegradable urns are some of the new inventions on offer but it will take time for the Chinese to relinquish the long tradition of tomb burial, cemetery officials said.

The Fushou Cemetery in Qingpu District has built the so-called burial walls which hold ash urns in niches, each with a small display panel to describe the life of the decreased. "This practice saves precious land," said Wu Yibo, an official with the cemetery.

About 100 families have applied for wall burial this year, representing one fifth of those who plan to bury ash urns in the Fushou Cemetery around the Winter solstice day.

The Songhe Cemetery in Jiading District is promoting its biodegradable urns which can dissolve in soil and the plot can be used again after 10 years. However, only eight families ordered the eco-friendly urns despite a low price of 3,800 yuan (US$612).

Joey Liu, an IT worker, said he would never consider burying the ashes of his ancestors in the sea or under a tree or in a wall. "I want them to have a spacious final resting place. It's my way of showing filial piety," he said.

Lu Chunling, director of funeral management of Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, said Shanghai's land for cemeteries will be used up in 10 to 15 years. "Eco-friendly burial is the way out. Our goal is to cut the percentage of earth burial by 10 percent in 2015," Lu said.

The city currently has 44 cemeteries with a total of 1.4 million graves. A grave costs about 20,000 yuan to 30,000 yuan on average. Authorities have limited the size of a grave to 1.5 square meters.


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