Harare graveyard space headache

The number of Harare residents that are burying their dear departed in cemeteries that are located on the outskirts of the city is increasing as pressure for graveyard space intensifies.

With most cemeteries in Harare — notably Warren Hills — largely full, residents are looking elsewhere for alternative burial space.

The scarcity of burial space in Harare has resulted in the recent establishment of new private cemeteries on the outskirts of the capital city.

Doors to the Restland Memorial Park, which is located on the peripheries of the high-density suburb of Dzivarasekwa, were opened last week, providing relief to those residing in the city’s western suburbs of Dzivarasekwa, Kuwadzana and Tynwald, among others.

The cemetery is located in an area which falls under the Zvimba Rural District Council.

Another cemetery is set to be opened in Goromonzi, which is also on the outskirts of Harare in Mashonaland East province.

The filling up of burial space at Warren Hills Cemetery meant that those residing in nearby suburbs had to resort to using the Granville Cemetery which is located along the Harare-Masvingo highway.

The Zororo Memorial Park, which is located on the outskirts of Chitungwiza, was the other alternative location.

The coming in of new players has revolutionised the memorial park business with some of the new players introducing a number of services that the traditional cemeteries have not been offering.

Among some of the new services that have been introduced are grave maintenance, instant tomb installation and memorial wall inscription, among others.

Last week, The Sunday Mail Society joined a group of stakeholders that toured the Restland Memorial Park.

One of the new features that the cemetery has introduced is the construction of built-in vaults.

Mr Sasha Chikwanda briefed the more than 10 funeral houses in attendance the advantages of using built-in vaults.

“As we all know, time management is a vital component of any human being.

“The built-in vaults saves time. We dig the grave and construct the vaults a long time before burial,” Mr Chikwanda said.

The scarcity of burial space in major cities has resulted in a number of suggestions being made as councils grapple with space shortage.

Apart from cremation, some councils have been encouraging families to bury two people in one grave. Special requests, mostly from couples, are being made for two people to be buried in the same grave.

Cremation — a process in which bodies are burnt and reduced to ashes — has also been touted as one of the possible solutions to the burial space shortages.

Harare has two crematoriums, one at Warren Hills and the other one at the Pioneer Cemetery near Mbare.

In Zimbabwe, cremation is largely shunned as it is viewed as a religious abomination and cultural taboo.

The majority of Zimbabweans prefer burials over cremation.

According to the information that was provided by funeral service providers, as low as 2,4 percent of those that die in Harare are cremated.

Information on the number of bodies that are cremated in Harare was not readily available from the Harare City Council.

The Harare City Council has been encouraging people to cremate their beloved ones as it seeks to arrest the burial space constraints.

Burial space constraints are not only confined to Harare. Bulawayo, the country’s second biggest city, is also facing burial space shortages.

As if taking a cue from Harare, the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has been encouraging the residents to consider cremation.

Media reports, however, suggest that there has been a low response, with an average of only 12 people being cremated each month.

As a measure to save the limited burial space, the BCC early this year passed a resolution to encourage the cremation of children.

In suggestions that courted controversy, the BCC suggested the digging up of graves to allow more burials and a ban on the reservation of graves and the reduction of cremation tariffs.

The world over, burial grounds are being recycled by removing remains from older graves, burying them deeper in the same grave and then reusing the space on top for a new body.

Online sources indicates that such European countries as Germany, simply reuse the same grave space after several years.

Families in Spain and Greece, rent a “niche”, an above-ground crypt where bodies lie for several years.

When they have decomposed, the bodies are moved to a communal burial ground, so the niche can be used again.

Israel has approved the creation of multi-storey underground burial tunnels.

“A process called “green cremation” is practiced in some parts of the United States. The body is exposed to alkaline, which breaks it down to ash and liquid which is then scattered in water bodies.

Land shortages in the late 1970s forced Hong Kong to ban the construction of new permanent burial sites, and public cemeteries were ordered to ensure the remains of the deceased were exhumed and cremated after six years to make way for newcomers.

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