Forum hears Shanghai's approach to funerals saving land

Hu Min
City's eco-friendly burials an answer to complicated and diverse funeral and interment demand according to a Civil Affairs Bureau official at a forum on reform and administration.
Hu Min

Shanghai has long been taking a green approach to the development of its funeral and interment industry, with large plots of land saved as a result, a recent forum heard.

The city has spared no effort in promoting eco-friendly burials in recent years, said Gao Ji, deputy director of Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, during the forum discussing the industry's reform and administration.

New tombs have been limited to below 0.6 square meters, and small tombs of 0.4 square meters have become mainstream in city cemeteries, said Gao.

A number of cemeteries have also developed tombs smaller than 0.2 square meters and an increasing number of eco-friendly burials such as tree, wall, lawn and sea burials have emerged, Gao said.

In Shanghai, sea burials were introduced 34 years ago, and the ashes of 62,000 deceased have been scattered into the sea so far, saving 25,000 square meters of land since then, according to Gao.

The city has been upgrading traditional cremation machines and replacing them with eco-friendly alternatives since 2021 and most funeral parlours have completed the upgrade so far.

"As an international metropolis, Shanghai faces complicated and diverse funeral and interment demand," said Gao. "There are still quite a number of contradictions such as the increase in deaths and shrinking land resources, burial supply and tradition, shortage of funeral parlours and tombs and a 'not in my back yard' mindset, which civil affairs authorities are working on solutions to."

The forum, hosted by the China Society for Social Governance and co-hosted by the funeral management research branch of the society and Fu Shou Yuan International Group, China's largest cemetery and funeral service provider, aimed to promote the political, industry, academia, and research exchange of the field and pool wisdom on China's funeral and interment management system.

"Funeral reform is a must towards the goal of harmonious co-existence of humans and nature, and carbon peaking and carbon neutrality goals," said Zhou Hanmin, a Standing Committee member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. "The aging population has become an unprecedented subject confronting China's social development."

Zhou called for a comprehensive law on the funeral and interment industry as he said reform is based on laws and regulations.

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