Instead of placing cremated remains in a niche or scattering ashes out at sea, people might soon be able to scatter the ashes of their loved ones in a garden here.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) said yesterday that it plans to introduce the new ecological burial concept of inland ash scattering at government-run facilities as an additional option for the placement of cremated remains.
This move comes in response to interest from members of the public. It is in line with similar practices in societies such as South Korea, Taiwan, China, the United States and Australia, said NEA, which operates the Choa Chu Kang Columbarium and Mandai Columbarium.
For now, it is unclear how the mechanics of NEA's Inland Ash Services will work, how any site will be designed, and where it will be located.
But The Straits Times understands a possible concept could be a garden with a trench laid with pebbles that loved ones can scatter ashes on top of. Sprinklers could help the ashes flow into the ground through gaps between the pebbles.
When the trench is almost filled up, a new one will be opened. Due to its likely depth, it will take sometime before this happens. Flowers could eventually be added to the site, which is unlikely to carry any name markers.
The area could have different sections, as well as mounds and rows with trees to afford grieving loved ones the privacy to complete the end-of-life process.
The agency said it will first consult the industry and stakeholders over the next few months on aspects such as design criteria, user experience, operational procedures, booking arrangements, and cultural and religious needs. It will reach out to the various religious groups, after-death care service providers and the public.
Relevant feedback and suggestions will be incorporated into the provision of NEA's Inland Ash Services at government-run facilities.
Bishop Terry Kee of the Lutheran Church said the proposal is not a replacement but an addition to the options currently available. "As such, I don't foresee any objections," he said, adding that the Protestant Church is a diverse community with most today accepting cremation as a practical option, although some still prefer burial.
This new option would, however, be forbidden by the Catholic Church. Guidelines state that Catholics cannot scatter ashes in the air, at sea, in forests or parks, divide them across households, or use them as mementoes, as they believe in the resurrection of the body.
Meanwhile, the Singapore Buddhist Federation's president, Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, said there are no restrictions on how devotees commemorate the dead "since consciousness and feeling have left the body". He said this method could save space as there are limits to how many columbaria can be built.
Ms Sarah Swee, 29, a business owner, said: "I like the idea of ashes going back into the ground. It completes the circle of life, but whether or not I'd choose it depends on the details in the execution."