Graveyards in SA Filled Up to Capacity
Graveyards are becoming more costly because space is running out, not only in South Africa but all over the world. In New York, graveyards have all but run out of space in Manhattan. And outer borough properties are now charging exorbitant amounts. In London, to handle the shortage of burial space, the city passed a 2007 law. That law permitted the authorities to dig up graves which are at 75 years old to make way for new ones. Even in South Africa’s biggest city, Johannesburg, about 4 million people will face burial concerns.
What are people to do when graveyards reach their full-capacity? City Parks in Johannesburg are encouraging residents to look for other options. Of Johannesburg’s 35 cemeteries, 27 are full. They are ‘passive cemeteries’ as they can accommodate 2nd and 3rd burials. Certainly, newer alternatives and options are under consideration in countries such as freeze-drying or promession. Experts immerse the corpse in liquid nitrogen. After a certain process, they bury the powdery remains of the corpse in a shallow grave.
Graveyards – Maybe Relatives Should Share Graves
The shortage of burial space is becoming evident in many of South Africa’s metros. Another option to solve the ‘full-graveyard’ dilemma is to have the departed laid to rest in mausoleums. The bodies lie on top of one another. Or bodies undergo cremation. Municipalities have even been looking at burial packages where relatives share graves in graveyards. In Johannesburg’s Avalon Cemetery, this is already happening. Lekwa Local Municipality is no different with its graveyard issues. Situated in the Gert Sibande District of Mpumalanga, it is the high prevalence of HIV/Aids and resulting deaths which are causing graveyards to fill up so quickly.
Graveyards – HIV/Aids the Culprit
Mayor of Lekwa, Linda Dhlamini said that they were running out of graveyard space fast and something had to be done. Dhlamini went on to say that the Lekwa Municipality was the 3rd in Mpumalanga regarding HIV prevalence. The province recently launched ‘Operation Vuka Sisebente’ so as to address HIV. This war-room model successfully rolled out in KwaZulu-Natal, is meant to improve matters by collecting important health and socio-economic data.
Some 14% of people living in Mpumalanga are HIV positive, second only to KwaZulu-Natal with its burden of HIV. In fact, in 2012 a survey revealed that about 46% of pregnant women in the Gert Sibande district were living with the HIV. Dhlamini encouraged people to be continually going for counselling as well as for testing.
Graveyards – Are there Solutions?
Cemeteries are rapidly filling up, and with HIV/Aids, it is happening far faster than anticipated. There is not much scope for new sites. In many of the big cities and smaller towns, the cemeteries are fraught with difficulties and they can’t easily be transformed or made larger due to their very nature. Many methods of body disposal are being practised in other parts of the world, and these are now also being explored in South Africa as possible solutions to the graveyard-space dilemma. With the HIV/Aids crisis showing no signs of abatement, these new solutions are going to have to be something extraordinary.