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  • Dec 28, 2014
  • Updated: 12:00am

Should the government build columbaria in all 18 districts?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2011, 12:00am

Hugo Lai Chung-yan, Stewards Pooi Kei College

We are running out of places to store the ashes of the dead.

So what should we do?

The government has proposed building columbaria in all 18 districts across the territory.

The move is aimed at pleasing the public who are adopting a not-in-my-backyard approach to the issue.

Columbaria should indeed be built, but not across the territory. I believe doing so in all 18 districts would be a waste of precious public land.

Hong Kong's property prices are sky-high for a reason. Why waste 18 land plots when as few as three should be enough to house urns?

While residents in selected districts might oppose the idea, we should not let their opposition override the collective benefits. Building columbaria at select places is in the best interests of everyone.

Opponents of this idea may point out that it is unfair to have new columbaria only in certain districts.

A solution could be to set up a plan of rotation. After a certain time period - say, five years - a columbarium could be removed from one district and relocated to another.

That, however, would not be very cost-effective.

We should not let our emotions cloud common sense on the issue.

As with every decision that affects the public, we should look for a practical solution that benefits the majority of citizens.

So rather than build 18 new columbaria, we should be reasonable and build only a few.

It is high time that citizens considered the public good.

Yuen Hui-ling, Diocesan Girls' School

When someone dies, people want to make sure that the remains of their loved ones are stored properly.

According to official statistics, about 90 per cent of the 40,000 people who die each year in Hong Kong are cremated. Yet only 57,000 new niches for urns will currently be available for the coming decade.

You do the maths: there just aren't enough columbaria to cope with the growing demand.

Limiting the number of columbaria has other negative effects as well. During traditional festivals honouring the dead, people from all over the territory flock to the same few sites. This can cause traffic jams, long queues and a great deal of frustration.

Wouldn't it make everyone's lives much easier if they had a columbarium just down the road in their own districts?

It'll be just a few people, bouquets of flowers and memories of those at peace.

Some locals oppose columbaria because they believe their presence would affect an area's fung shui and image.

If that's the case, we can build columbaria with impressive architecture. That way, the sites could become a pleasant addition to a district's charm.

The bottom line is that we have to break down old norms and change perceptions. There's a real need for new columbaria in Hong Kong.

Our dearly departed relatives deserve a peaceful resting place.

They gave us love and support while they were alive so now it's our turn to pay them back by honouring their memory.

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