The City of Cape Town is planning 150 000 new grave sites.
Between 2005 and 2015, extensions were made to several cemeteries, including Wallacedene which now has 19 800 graves.
Anda Ntsodo, mayoral committee member for community services, said the City ploughed millions of rands each year into the development of cemetery space because it had to respect the religious and cultural beliefs of the many Capetonians for whom “cremation is not option”.
He said there was enough cemetery space in the city to accommodate burials at the current demand for the next decade.
“Burial space exists predominantly in a few larger cemeteries such as the Welmoed, Wallacedene, Atlantis, Grassy Park and Maitland cemeteries,” he said.
Worldwide, cities are finding it more difficult to provide for burial space close to where residents live, and Cape Town is no different. In many of the city’s older suburbs, cemeteries are already full and there is little space for expansion or new cemeteries.
Of the city’s 40 cemeteries, 17 are full.
“Our greatest challenge in the development of cemeteries is the availability of land. There are many competing interests for every piece of land in our city, including housing, social facilities, business premises and biodiversity conservation. Also, when land is identified for cemetery development, the environmental and land-use approval processes take between seven and 10 years on average to complete,” said Mr Ntsodo.
And while cremation is becoming an increasingly more practical solution, Mr Ntsodo said: “The City suggests that residents discuss their preferences with their family, as so often a person dies unexpectedly without having told anyone that they prefer to be cremated.
“wWhen in doubt, the family normally chooses burial. Burial is generally more expensive and there is often a lot of pressure placed on the bereaved to provide expensive coffins and memorials afterwards.
“Cremation is a cheaper alternative and ashes can be scattered or buried in a family grave at a fraction of the cost.”