Chris­tian ceme­tery runs out of room

The Myanmar Times - - News - MYAT NYEIN AYE

AS traf­fic con­ges­tion thick­ens and high-rise build­ings dom­i­nate the sky­line, it seems that the over­crowd­ing sit­u­a­tion in the land of the liv­ing is re­flected for those be­low the ground. Yangon’s dead are run­ning out of room.

With no more space for plots un­der­ground, the com­mer­cial cap­i­tal’s largest ceme­tery is look­ing to ex­pand ver­ti­cally.

The Yay­way ceme­tery, in North Okkalapa town­ship, is con­sid­er­ing stack­ing fu­ture ca­dav­ers in high-rise graves. The prob­lem is worst for the Chris­tian dead, whose fam­i­lies pre­fer burial plots to cre­ma­tion.

About 20 in­ter­ments take place in the 12-acre (4.8 hectare) ceme­tery ev­ery week. Each grave costs K250,000. The grave­yard ac­com­mo­dates 250,000 plots, and they are all full.

The Chris­tian ceme­tery’s man­age­ment com­mit­tee has drawn up a plan to stack the re­mains three deep.

U Bwe Ky­one, deputy head of the city’s Depart­ment of Pol­lu­tion Con­trol and Cleans­ing, which is re­spon­si­ble for the main­te­nance of the site, said the city has no more land to of­fer the ceme­tery.

“It’s only the Chris­tian ceme­tery that doesn’t have suf­fi­cient space. Their com­mit­tee asked us to pro­vide more plots, but there are no more. So they’re ar­rang­ing to build ver­ti­cal high-rise graves,” he said. The ceme­tery was es­tab­lished 20 years ago.

The de­sign was ap­proved by the pre­vi­ous re­gional govern­ment and put into ef­fect last June.

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Ko Michael said re­mains buried dur­ing the past 10 years would be dis­in­terred and the bones placed in a pot. The pots would be stacked up in a space 1 square foot in ex­tent.

“We will in­form the fam­i­lies con­cerned when we be­gin the process next year. We al­ready al­low the ashes and bones from cre­mated bod­ies to be stacked up in the ceme­tery. We will con­tinue with this sys­tem of ver­ti­cal high-rise graves and stacked graves in the fu­ture,” he told The Myan­mar Times.

Not every­body is happy with the ar­range­ment. U Alex, who lives in In­sein town­ship, said, “I think a ceme­tery should of­fer one per­son, one grave. I un­der­stand there is no more space for this sys­tem. But I don’t want to see a ver­ti­cal high-rise ceme­tery.”

But Ma Nant Theingi, of Ahlone town­ship, said, “It doesn’t mat­ter. Graves are not the main point – space is the main point. What does it mat­ter when you’re dead?”

The Chris­tian ceme­tery is just one of the 16 re­li­gious grave­yards in Yay­way, along­side Bud­dhist, Mus­lim, Hindu and Chi­nese Bud­dhist burial grounds. But none of the other burial grounds is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the same prob­lem. The Mus­lim practice is to dis­in­ter ev­ery five years, and to ac­com­mo­date de­ceased fam­ily mem­bers to­gether. The cost of a Mus­lim grave is K300,000, the same as a Bud­dhist grave.

Most Bud­dhists pre­fer cre­ma­tion. Yangon of­fers the cheap­est ser­vice in the coun­try, at K4000, while a Man­dalay cre­ma­tion costs K30,000 and Nay Pyi Taw K25,000.

“We use 4 or 5 gal­lons [of petrol] for one cre­ma­tion. We come in un­der bud­get ev­ery year,” said U Bwe Ky­one.

Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw

Yangon’s largest ceme­tery, Yay­way, is run­ning out of room.


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