Singapore

NEA plans to have own inland ash-scattering service

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) yesterday said it plans to introduce the new ecological burial concept of inland ash-scattering services at Government-run facilities as an additional option for the placement of cremated remains.

This comes in response to interest from some people and is in line with similar practices in places such as China and the United States, said NEA.

NEA 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, the design of any site, how it will function and where it will be located.

ST understands that a possible concept could include a garden with a trench laid with rounded pebbles that loved ones can scatter ashes on from an adjoining lane. Sprinklers could help the ashes flow into the ground through the gaps in the pebbles.

When the trench is almost filled up, a new one will be opened. 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 mourners the privacy to complete the end-of-life process.

NEA 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 religious groups, after-death care service providers and the public.

Relevant suggestions will be incorporated into the provision of NEA's Inland Ash Services at its Government-run facilities here.

The Lutheran Church's Bishop Terry Kee said the proposal is not a replacement but an addition to the existing options available.

"As such, I do not 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 prefer burial.

This new service 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.

The Singapore Buddhist Federation's president Venerable Seck Kwang Phing said there are no restrictions as to how devotees commemorate the dead "since consciousness and feeling have left the body".

He said this could help to save space, adding that there are limits to how many columbaria can be built.

NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT AGENCYChoa Chu KangMandai