Imperative to gain buy-in for sea burials

As Singapore's population ages and the number of deaths is expected to rise, there is an urgent need to find more space to lay the dead to rest with dignity.

It is heartening to learn of the Government's plan to build a facility specially dedicated to sea burials (New sea burial facility to be built at Tanah Merah; April 5).

However, getting the buy-in of Singaporeans may present a challenge.

For one thing, the elders in the family may insist on storing the ashes in a columbarium, or even on a traditional burial.

Some religions ban the use of sea burials, according to the belief of preserving the "whole body".

There may also be concerns that scattering ashes into the sea will pollute the water - even though it will not. Hence, much convincing has to be done before sea burial is widely adopted.

But it must be done because we simply do not have enough land for more burials or to keep building new columbaria.

One obvious benefit of sea burials to families is that of cost savings.

It is also a more environmentally friendly practice.

As the sea burial facility is expected to start operations next year, it is imperative that the National Environment Agency puts in measures to make sea burials a seamless experience.

Erecting advisory boards and doing spot checks can prevent users from polluting the water by throwing food offerings, joss sticks or incense paper.

Assurances also need to be given to pre-empt the concerns of visitors to the nearby beaches, especially when there are many water activities in the area.

Lee Yu Xiang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2018, with the headline 'Imperative to gain buy-in for sea burials'. Print Edition | Subscribe