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