Inland ash scattering in singapore

Inland Ash Scattering In Singapore

Inland ash scattering is the scattering of the cremated remains at a designated area. The remains will then be absorbed into the soil naturally. It is one of the forms of green burials.

It will be an alternative to the other common methods of dealing with the remains of the deceased. According to this article, Inland ash scattering will be available in the Garden of Peace at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery Complex in 2020 and Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium Complex in 2021.

May 2021 Update

The official opening date of the garden of peace has been announced. The ash scattering at the Garden of Peace will go live starting from 17 May 2021. Each ash scattering will cost S$320. This is quite disappointing as I thought it would be subsidized more or there will be an incentive for using this service.

Garden of Serenity at the Mandai Crematorium Complex is in development and expected to be operational by 2022.

If you wish to apply for inland ash scattering, you may do so at NEA’s online ePortal.

Garden Of Peace

We can see the artist’s impression of how the garden will look like. Its location is near Carpark C along Cemetery South Street 18. There is also a flower shop and bus stops beside the garden.

artist impression of garden of peace (section)

Source: NEA

location map of garden of peace

Source: NEA

From Google maps’ satellite view, we can see that it is very similar to what the artist has drawn.

artist impression of garden of peace (site plan)

Source: NEA

Garden of peace satellite view

Source: Google Maps

Steps In Inland Ash Scattering

According to a survey on Reach, the general steps for Inland Ash Scattering are as follows

Step 1

After cremation, the remains will be processed into a powder to ease scattering.

Step 2

The powdered ashes will be contained in a container (reusable) and transported to the ash scattering facility.

Step 3

Upon arrival, the Next-of-kin or Funeral Director will walk towards the ash scattering zone and conduct scattering of ashes.

Step 4

The ash scattering surface is covered with pebbles and creepers and will be watered periodically. Over time, ashes will flow and percolate into the soil underneath through the gravel bed.

Green Burial

Also known as eco-burial, the cremated remains will be either scattered into the soil directly or placed in a biodegradable-urn amongst plants like trees, shrubs or flowers.

There will not be any headstones, tablets, incense-burning or artificial decorations. These items are not Eco-friendly as they are not biodegradable and will cause pollution. Plants are used for handling grief and memorializing our loved ones. The plants will then provide green space and shade for the community. The concept is that the remains will go back to nature and provide nutrients for the plants, completing the cycle of life.

Green Burial is a practical and dignified way that embraces all aspects of sustainable development – be it environmental, socio-cultural, economical and psychological – for the burials of remains in multicultural Singapore.

Land Scarcity In Singapore

Singapore has a land scarcity problem. We need to make use of our land efficiently to fulfill the needs of our people. From 2012 to 2019, Singapore’s annual death figures have increased on average 2.2% annually to 21,390 in 2019.

Current Usage Of Land Regarding Post Death Matters

Singapore post death sites 2020

Map Source: OneMap and NEA

We can see in the image above that there are several sites and facilities that are currently related to post death matters. As of March 2020, there are

  • 9 Active cemeteries
  • 6 Dedicated columbaria
  • 4 Crematoria
  • 2 Inland ash scattering facilities
  • 8 Funeral Parlours
  • 1 Sea Burial Site

These do not include other private facilities that house remains like Nirvana, temples and churches.

Singapre deaths flowchart 2019

Source: NEA

In 2019, excluding repatriation, 82% of remains are cremated and 18% are buried. With a majority choosing to place the cremated remains at a columbarium, land space will be an issue in the years to come.

Different Means Of Dealing With Remains

Burial – Land

There are about 10 cemeteries left in Singapore. Choa Chu Kang Cemetery Complex is the only cemetery that is still open for burials. With effect from 1 November 1998, the burial period will be limited to 15 years. The graves will be exhumed by the end of 15 years.

The Choa Chu Kang Cemetery Exhumation Programme Phase 1 started in 2005 and is now in phase 7A.

For those whose religions permit cremation, the exhumed remains will be cremated and stored in columbarium niches.

Where burial is mandated by religion, the exhumed remains will be re-buried in smaller individual plots.

Price: A burial costs S$140 – S$420 for children below 10 and S$315 – S$940 for adults.

Cremation – Niche

This is the typical default option for most Singaporeans. After the cremation process, you will need to purchase a niche and store the remains in the locations below

  • Religious facilities like temples and churches

The niches in government-managed facilities are freehold which means that they do not expire.

As for the privately-managed facilities, for most niches, you are leasing a niche and there is an expiry date. You will need to renew upon expiry based on the package purchased. If you do not want to renew, you will need to find another space for relocation.

For religious facilities, the range of lease expiry can range from a few decades to freehold.

I dropped a support ticket regarding niches on My Legacy, the government dedicated website on end-of-life matters. This is their reply.

“There is no fixed occupancy duration specified for the storage of ashes in niches at Government-managed Columbaria.

For private columbaria, their lease periods and disposal methods may vary. The members of public may consider to check with the different private columbaria on their respective practices before applying for a niche.”

Please take note that for “freehold”, if the government claims back the land for other purposes like the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery Exhumation Programme in the years to come, the remains will have to be relocated.

The Land Acquisition Act (LAA) is a key piece of legislation that enables the compulsory acquisition of private land for public purposes, such as the building of transportation infrastructure and public housing. Landowners whose lands are acquired are paid market value compensation under the LAA.

rough guide cremation niche

Source: MoneySmart

Price: The price includes the cremation, urn, niche and marble plaque. The total can range from S$1,670 to above S$16,000.

Cremation – Sea

Sea burial in Singapore is where the cremated remains are scattered at a dedicated area. The dedicated area is approximately 2.8km south of Pulau Semakau, Singapore’s only landfill. You or the funeral director will need to arrange for a boat to the designated area to scatter the ashes between 7 AM and 7 PM.

It is recommended that the loved ones do not throw out items that can pollute the waters, such as food offerings, joss sticks and incense paper.

Sea burial has been gaining popularity over the years. Reasons for choosing a sea burial include it being fuss-free for loved ones, economical and freedom-loving.

Also, there are some who cannot accept a sea burial. They feel that they do not have a resting place or they are non-swimmers when they are living.

Price: It can cost from S$200 to over S$1,000 including cremation depending on how lavish the deceased or loved ones want it to be.

Precious Stones And Jewellery

Loved ones can choose to convert the cremated remains into precious stones or have a piece of jewellery like a pendant to hold a small portion of the ashes. The prices of the stones can be comparable to natural diamonds.

Carrying the jewellery pieces on them allows loved ones to hold on to a tangible object which can be close to them all the time. The pieces can be conveniently available as they can be kept at home and also be passed down the family.

Price: The price of precious stones can vary depending on the size, cut and provider. Algordanza charges between S$4,588 for an uncut and unpolished 0.25 carat memorial diamond, and S$33,999 for a one-carat cut and polished gem.

A piece of keepsake jewellery can range from S$30 to over S$500 depending on the jewellery chosen.

Inland Ash Scattering In Other Countries

Taiwan

This video is from a Taiwanese Youtuber showing one of the locations where they do the inland ash scattering. This is located in Yang Ming Shan, Taipei.

Joeman taiwan eco burial

Source: Joeman Channel

You can see that the place is really beautiful and peaceful.

Joeman taiwan closeup eco burial

 

Source: Joeman Channel

The rectangle plots surrounded by flowers are the sites for ash scattering. You will be able to sit near the plot where the ashes are scattered and reminisce about your loved ones. I think there should be more trees to provide shade when visiting the site.

The Taiwanese government encourages 環保葬 (eco-burial) by providing free eco burials for some cities and on top of that, some cities give 10,000 – 20,000 NTD (S$470 – S$940) as an incentive for going for eco-burial.

You can find out more here in this article (in mandarin)

South Korea

One in six graves out of the 14 million graves in South Korea are not taken care of. They are called graves without family. Korean burial tradition has been evolving when it’s cemeteries reached maximum capacity by the end of the 90s. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, 82.7% of the deceased were cremated in Korea in 2017, as compared to 17.8% in 1991.

There is an increasing number of Koreans opting for green burials. According to the 2015 Statistics Korea survey of funerary customs, 45.4% of people buried the ashes of their loved ones in the earth, the most compared to other options.

Some of them try to avoid holding lavish ceremonies, while others seek a simpler way to pay respect to their loved ones.

More Koreans are interested in eco-friendly ways to bury cremated ashes. Currently, popular options in South Korea include planting cremated remains.

Seoul citizens can use the site for up to 40 years with a payment of 500,000 won (S$595) and attach a small name tag on a tree trunk if they want.

China

China tree burial

Source: China Daily

There is an increasing number of people in China, especially in urban areas, embracing green funerals as local governments promote eco-friendly burials.

According to a target set in a guideline by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, by 2020, 50 per cent of funerals in China every year will be green ceremonies.

However, green funerals are still in their infancy in China because most people still prefer traditional burials in cemeteries.

Questions Regarding Inland Ash Scattering

If you are still unsure if your religion permits inland ash scattering, religious representatives appeared on a news segment in May 2021 to support and approve of green burial methods like inland ash scattering.

I have written on it over here.

Benefits of Inland Ash Scattering

Save Space With Green Spaces

We do not have to build infrastructure to house the remains. Having more green space is also a big plus. Inland ash scattering can also potentially take up less space than a columbarium for the same amount of remains.

No Further Relocation

There will be no worrying about the expiry of leases of the niches or burial sites. Even if eventually the site for ash scattering has to be repurposed, our loved ones have been returned to nature, providing nutrients to the vegetation nearby. With videos and photos, these are ways we can reminisce about our loved ones instead of just visiting them irregularly at a columbarium. We should treasure the time we have with them when they are still alive, and not regret when they are gone.

Less Waste And Economical

There will be no plagues, urns, niches or burning of offerings. All these items are not-biodegradable and not environmentally friendly. Inland ash scattering potentially would be the most cost-efficient option. If the government can subsidize inland ash scattering like what other countries are doing, it will increase the adoption. Resources can be saved for other purposes. For my death, I would personally rather the money to be donated to a charity.

Problems With Inland Ash Scattering

Potentially Harmful To Plants

According to this article on gardening, it is potentially harmful to plants as a human’s cremated ashes. While cremains is made up of nutrients that plants require, human ashes also contain a high amount of salt, which is toxic for most plants and can be leached into the soil. Cremation ashes also have a very high pH level, which can be toxic to many plants because it prevents the natural release of beneficial nutrients within the soil.

I hope that a study has been done before implementing inland ash scattering to see if it affects the plants. If it is bad for the environment, then the ash scattering might not be appealing anymore.

A potential workaround would be composting instead of cremation. Composting the deceased can breakdown the entire body including bones. The process takes about 30 days. According to Recompose, a company that transforms remains to soil, it can potentially provide nutrients for the soil. Composting remains also using less energy and releases fewer pollutants than cremation.

Cultural Rejection

With the current cultural beliefs, we can only place such gardens in outskirt areas. Most citizens would not accept any housing of remains to be located near their residence. There is an inconsistency where some people want to pay respect to their loved ones but they don’t want any housing of remains to be near their neighbourhood.

As of today, most people, especially the older people, still cannot accept their remains to be without a place like a columbarium to “rest”.

However, I can see more and more people accept green burials as more people place more importance on the effect on the environment.

Technical Difficulty

There can be some technical difficulty as the site is an open space.

What happens when the wind blows the ashes during pouring?

Also, how long before the next party can scatter the ashes as the ashes from the previous party will still be at the site?

How many remains can each plot house each period as it takes time for the ashes to percolate into the soil?

A problem with the site having a high capacity, there might be a lack of enough space in the resting area to sit and reminisce about loved ones during prominent festivals like Qingming and the 7th Lunar Month.

TL;DR

With two inland ash scattering sites launching soon, inland ash scattering is a form of green burial where cremated remains are scattered at a designated area to be absorbed into the soil naturally. This green burial method is already popular in other countries like Taiwan and South Korea.

With the number of deaths increasing by 2.2% each year, in Singapore, a country that lacks space, dealing with the remains of the deceased will be a problem in the future. There are both potential benefits and problems with inland ash scattering.

During my research, I came across this website. My Legacy is a government website regarding end of life matters. It is currently still under beta and quite bare. Hopefully, the amount of information will become more robust in time to come.

If you wish to apply for inland ash scattering, you may do so at NEA’s online ePortal.

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