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Consider cremation as an alternative to burying- NEPA

Published:Thursday | April 2, 2015 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

THE NATIONAL Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA) has said policymakers should seriously consider cremation as an alternative to burying persons, as, in addition to public spaces being limited, family plots and other private areas are running out of space.

Leonard Francis, director of the Spatial Planning Division at the NEPA, said Jamaica is experiencing serious land constraints.

"There was an emphasis on public burial space, but there is an overall issue with land space. Development orders that we receive are showing that most parishes are out of space. We are burying more and more people and it is sterilising some sensitive lands in addition to decreasing the capability of land in terms of agriculture and other development," he said.

Francis added: "Family plots are everywhere and is historical, but it is something we want to move away from, because it is not an effective and efficient way of burying persons. A major issue that we have to tackle is some of the cultural norms that exist. There are some serious stigmas in our country when it comes to the dead, and the fact is that we have to find other alternatives for burying persons, because we have no land space," said Francis.

alternative options

He noted that there are several options that the country should consider, adding that it will take everyone playing their part to deal with the problem.

"We have to seriously think about cremation. There are some persons who, because of tradition and even religion, might be sceptical, so I know it's going to be difficult. I have sat in several meetings and, when I raise the concerns and speak of cremation, people shy away from it," he noted.

"We might have to look at burying more people in a particular location, which would mean we would have more multi-storey vaults. There is also a trend that is becoming popular which is called digital burial, which includes technology and other features, but we need to seriously explore other options," Francis told The Gleaner.

Janet Hyde, senior manager for the Spatial Planning Division at NEPA, raised similar concerns, noting that the country is slowly approaching a crisis.

"Issues like these (lack of space) happen in other countries as well, but the difference is that they have policies where, after a certain time period, the plots are reused and then subsequently the remains would be exhumed so as to make space and also for sustainability, and this is somewhere I think we ought to go as a country'" she told The Gleaner.

Hyde added: "I want to implore persons, especially leaders, to see how best they can get citizens to move away from traditions, because it is a crisis that we are in and we would have to change some of the cultures and some of the things that we are accustomed to, in order to solve this problem."