Wed, 22 Mar 2000

Public urged to adopt new burial system

JAKARTA (JP): The City Public Funeral Agency has called on residents to adopt multilayer burials for deceased family members to help solve the scarcity of land in the capital.

"The fact that public graveyards are not increasing in size while the city population is growing is the basic problem," the agency's information officer, Eddy Supriyatna, said on Tuesday.

Eddy, stressing the need for a multilayer burial system for those buried for more than one year, said: "It is not a violation of any religious rule."

He said his office and the City Social Affairs Agency had discussed the plan for multilayer graves with the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI) and representatives from different religious groups. "MUI has endorsed the plan," Eddy said.

He explained that a plot of 2.5 meters by 1.5 meters with a depth of 1.5 meters was needed to bury an adult and that "the space could, in truth, accommodate two to four bodies".

He said the system could help optimize the use of plots in public cemeteries, adding that it would be more economical for families of the deceased as they could save up to 75 percent of the current maintenance fees.

Eddy said his office manages 101 public cemeteries on more than 560 hectares in Greater Jakarta.

"Ideally, the size of those cemeteries should increase by 14 hectares annually."

He said last year the size increased by only 6,000 square meters, and that took place in Pondok Kelapa Cemetery, East Jakarta, where the price of land is relatively cheaper than other parts of the capital.

He said unless the size of cemeteries increased significantly, cemeteries would not be able to accommodate new burials by 2001. He said an ideal public cemetery should be 785 hectares in order to maintain its function until 2005.

"But with a limited city budget, we are pessimistic that the target can be achieved," he complained.

According to official data, there are about 100 to 120 burials every day in the city. Burials are divided into nine categories with maintenance fees ranging from Rp 2,000 to Rp 50,000 every three years. Homeless families are exempt from the fees.

"One of the most popular public cemeteries in the city is Tanah Kusir in South Jakarta. It now accepts only multilayer burials as it does not have any more plots," Eddy said.

Another program of the agency, said Eddy, was to redesign the cemeteries so they are environmentally friendly and to get away from their "spooky" image.

"We want to try to make cemeteries look like parks with various kinds of flowers and trees," he said, stressing that graves would also be redesigned with a standardized shape -- with raised soil and without tombstones -- so rainwater could be readily absorbed and multilayer burials implemented easily.

Eddy said he hoped the public would welcome the idea of multilayer burials and standardized graves without tombstones so maintenance would be much simpler and economical.

Four cemeteries have adopted the plan. They are in Pondok Ranggon and Pondok Kelapa, East Jakarta, Kampung Kandang, South Jakarta, and Semper, North Jakarta. (06)