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Durban grave shortage worries officials

With cemeteries like Stellawood, main picture, fast filling up, the eThekwini Municipality is scrambling to find space and intends introducing storing remains in urns similar to the facility above. Shelley Kjonstad African News Agency (ANA)

Durban – THE eThekwini Municipality is in a race against time to find long-term and sustainable solutions for burials as the municipality is running out of burial space.

In the meantime, the city is encouraging people to use alternative burial methods while keeping in mind cultural and religious burial practices.

It is also looking to secure suitable burial land.

The second Pan African Cemeteries and Crematoria Conference began on Monday and ends on Tuesday.

The Daily News last month reported Head of Parks, Recreation and Culture Unit Thembinkosi Ngcobo as saying there were less than 5 000 burial spaces left.

Deputy mayor Belinda Scott said there were at least 1 000 burials in the city each month and there were only five operational cemeteries – Craigieburn, Etafuleni, Mophela, Ntuzuma (re-use) and Langefontein.

“The interim solution is very clear, we need more land to be managed by the city’s formal cemeteries. We can’t sit here and say because we cannot reach an amicable agreement over cremation, we’re just going to fold our arms and do nothing. Our cemeteries are already overflowing,” Scott said.

She said people were secretly burying their dead at night, which was not a solution. They had to provide a sustainable solution in the interim, until the cremation issue was resolved, which would not be a quick-fix.

“We want a 10-step plan. What will we be doing from now until the end of January when there is no space left? And that plan cannot be for the next six months, it has to be of a 10-year roll-out,” she said.

Scott said the city had identified possible burial sites in Cato Ridge, Hammarsdale and Vulamehlo and the acquisition of that land would have to be prioritised by Real Estate.

Yesterday, Ngcobo said the land they were looking into would provide a service for those who preferred underground burials. This process might be completed by the end of the year, but the land would have to be transformed into grave sites, which could take 10 months.

Although the city was encouraging alternative methods for burials, cremation being one of them, the city had only two private and two public crematoriums, one of which – Mobeni Heights Crematorium – was not operational.

Source: Daily News