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December 19, 2012

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Sea burial subsidy jumps fivefold to preserve land

A FIVEFOLD increase in subsidies for sea burials will take effect in 2013 to encourage people to forgo the traditional but space-consuming interment in the ground, local civil affairs authorities said yesterday.

The subsidy has been increased from 400 yuan (US$64) to 2,000 yuan. The relatives of each deceased person will get 1,000 yuan, and the other 1,000 will be used to cover costs including shuttle buses, ship tickets and insurance.

Previously, only 150 yuan went for costs, not enough to cover the expenses, companies said.

"The efforts aim to encourage more people to participate in sea burial, the most environmentally friendly and land-saving way of burial," said Lu Chunling, director of funeral management of Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

While the subsidy increase was decided on early this year, it has not yet been implemented. The families of those buried at sea this year can get the subsidy difference starting next year.

To get the subsidy, people should have a local hukou, or permanent residence permit.

Lu said expats are able to be buried at sea burial in the city, but they will be handled on a case-by-case basis to make sure there are no political problems. The subsidy, however, is only for Shanghainese.

In July this year, local cemetery management officials rejected a Japanese man's request to cast his deceased father's ashes in Shanghai waters.

Grave burials are deeply-rooted in Chinese culture. People believe that burying urns with the ashes renders the souls of the deceased immortal.

To date, 25,563 urns of ash have been scattered at sea, saving some 76,689 square meters of land. The target is to make sea burials 2 percent among the total city burials, up from 1.5 percent.


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