Siting after-death facilities: Blame Nimby syndrome

I am sorry to hear about the experiences of Mr Sunil Kumar (Show the dead more respect, May 20) and Mr. V. Balu (Revamp area where funeral companies are located, May 23).

The deceased and their grieving family members should never have to endure such indignity.

I am heartened to read that the National Environment Agency (NEA) is taking steps to improve the situation (New funeral parlour sites will see better after-death facilities, May 25).

Mr Kumar and Mr Balu noted that after-death facilities and services are located in industrial parks.

Singapore is indeed a First World country with Third World funeral facilities. Centuries-old rituals, superstitions and taboos surrounding death have shaped regulations governing the location of establishments that offer funeral services.

In over 20 years as a funeral director, it has pained me to watch families receive their deceased loved ones at loading bays, carparks and even near garbage disposal areas. This exacerbates their grief.

Today, despite the fact that funerals are often held at void decks of HDB blocks, many Singaporeans are still against the idea of columbaria or funeral service establishments located near their homes.

The "not in my backyard" (Nimby) syndrome has made it challenging for NEA and other government agencies to site funeral facilities in more pleasant surroundings within community spaces.

The Ang Chin Moh Foundation has, over the years, run several public education campaigns on dying, death and funerals, working with the Lien Foundation and aged-care support groups, hospitals and government agencies to address the taboo surrounding death.

NEA's recent announcement that it will be launching five new funeral parlour sites for development over the next 10 years is a step in the right direction.

However, while these dedicated, purpose-built facilities will improve the situation, they may not result in a completely dignified send-off as several are still located in industrial or far-flung areas.

I urge more members of the public to speak up against the Nimby syndrome before it is further entrenched.

Let us not wait until we ourselves have to bid farewell to a loved one in a remote industrial park before we advocate a change in societal attitudes towards after-death facilities and services.

Ang Ziqian

Founder

Ang Chin Moh Foundation

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2019, with the headline 'Siting after-death facilities: Blame Nimby syndrome'. Print Edition | Subscribe