Cemeteries in Kerala turn eco-friendly


Thiruvananthpuram:  Christian cemeteries with decorative tomb stones and shining name-boards will become a thing of past as mainstream churches in Kerala are trying to make burials less stressful for environment.

Extreme difficulty in acquiring burial grounds and soaring land prices are among the factors that have prompted major churches in the state to shift to eco-friendly tombs and reusable graves from the conventional cemeteries.

To start with, some church establishments have banned coffins for burial while some others have prohibited construction of concrete tombs at graveyards.

Instead of tombs stones with glittering name-boards, parishes are asked to lay grasses as signs of burial.

Polluting material like plastic flowers, leather footwear and fancy fabrics are also banned on the corpses when they are buried, church sources said.

The management of St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Ernakulam district, which banned coffins and introduced vault system for burial, said that the space constraint forced them to go for radical changes, without bothering the initial resistance from conservatives.

“There are about 2,000 families in our congregation. Our 500-tomb cemetery is already full and we cannot think of expanding the burial ground further. So,the church thought about constructing vaults for burials,” Father Jose Chiramel, a former vicar, told PTI.

Since March, burial is done in the newly-built 180-vault complex in Cemetery Junction near Kacheripady, he said.

With a view of reducing the demand for family plots, some Churches have steeply increased the cost to Rs one lakh and above from less than Rs 5000-Rs 10000 a decade ago.

Public cemeteries, including those of churches, also face objections from people in cities as they are seen as a source of pollution.

“Environmental concerns are also involved in the issue. There are complaints of water sources including wells and tanks in the surroundings of cemeteries getting polluted by the seepages from the coffins. Vaults will be a solution for thus as burial in them would be more clean and hygienic,” Fr Chiramel said.

He thinks that the Churches would soon be forced to switch over to cremation as the problems of burial are bound to increase in the coming days.

“There is a general belief that Vatican is against cremation. But it is not true. The Vatican Council has allowed cremation since 1965.

“The ‘Sabha’, as the Catholic Church is called in Kerala, is only against those who defy its basic principles and stand for cremation,” Fr Chiramel said.