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Calls for affordable burials
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08:56, April 08, 2009

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More affordable burial plots will be made available for low-income residents, the local civil affairs department said yesterday.

The scheme will set aside 25,000 sq m for economical public cemetery spaces within three to five years. The cost of a tomb containing a single urn will be capped at 1,000 yuan ($146), the department said.

The municipal government had asked 22 local mausoleums and cemeteries to provide land for the campaign, a civil affairs official surnamed Zhang told China Daily yesterday, adding the first 10,000 sq m would be made available in October this year.

Residents saddled with economic hardships can apply to relevant departments for economical burial plots. The size limits are 0.3 sq m for a single-urn tomb and 0.5 sq m for one containing two urns.

Urbanities have in recent years found it increasingly difficult to pay for funerals - an issue brought to the fore during the lead-up to the Qingming Festival, or Tomb-Sweeping Day, last Saturday.

A standard tomb in one of Shanghai's major cemeteries, such as Fushouyuan Cemetery or Songhe Cemetery, costs 30,000 yuan to 60,000 yuan per sq m.

"People can't afford to pay the soaring prices for funerals and cemetery plots, which have been made more expensive by shrinking land availability," said a 46-year-old woman surnamed Gao, who recently paid about 30,000 yuan to have her father buried in neighboring Suzhou.

The cost was roughly equal to Gao's annual salary. She had to pay about 10,000 yuan to the funeral home, while the rest went for the 1.5-sq-m burial plot and simple grave.

Shanghai residents spend a per capita average of 20,000 yuan ($2,900) for a funeral and a burial plot, the latest Shanghai Funeral and Interment Association figures show.

A growing number of residents seek burial outside of Shanghai, mostly in neighboring Suzhou, Ningbo and Shaoxing cities, the association said.

The municipality currently has about 5 million sq m of cemetery land, of which, less than 5,000 sq m is available, association chairman Wang Hongjie said.

Source: China Daily

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