City looking for solutions to cramped cemeteries

AS A part of its persistent struggle against the ever-increasing demand for burial space, eThekwini Municipality are encouraging people to consider alternative methods of burial.

The on-going global problem, has pitted major cities with the problem of finding a balance between providing accommodation for the living and the dead.
In 2015, British newspaper The Guardian, published a story highlighting the dire need for more space. They reported that about 0.8 per cent of the world’s population (or 55 million people) were estimated to die each year.

In the same year, the eThekwini Municipality asked to the public to renew their family grave leases and claim unclaimed family graves. Reusing unclaimed graves was part of the City’s strategy to combat the lack of land.


A few years prior, in 2013, Durban hosted the South African Cemeteries Association Conference, which even then stressed the rapid reduction of burial space taking place in the country. Then mayor James Nxumalo commented on the issue, saying,“It is really a competition between the dead and the living. As government we have a responsibility to provide housing and other development infrastructure to ensure that we have a sustainable city. On the other hand, we have to meet the demand for cemeteries, as we find some of our communities are still sceptical about alternative burial methods that have been identified.”

According to an article published on the municipal website in 2015, the City said that there were 65 cemeteries and two crematoriums across the municipality, with around 9 600 burials and 1 200 cremations happening each year. The Cemeteries and Crematorium Department was running short of burial space because there were only 17 active cemeteries at the time. The remaining 48 cemeteries they said, were full.

“Alternate solutions had to be sought as the population of Durban is increasing rapidly at approximately 4.5 percent annually according to the 2013 Census. Coupled with the high mortality rate, practical solutions are needed,” read the article.

A spokesperson for the municipality told the Northglen News recently, the City has held seminars and conferences with major stakeholders in order to raise awareness and encourage alternative methods of burial by the public. They also said, “The City is currently investigating ways to extend the existing cemeteries and alternatively reopening old cemeteries like Ntuzuma Cemetery. The development of new crematoria projects is also on the way.”

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