Government must not delay policy revision for columbariums

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 August, 2012, 2:13am

The latest figures published by the Census and Statistics Department show that Hong Kong's death rate is projected to increase from about 42,700 per year (2012) to about 82,400 in 2041. This is largely due to the rapid increase of the ageing population and despite longer life expectancy.

If you look at the annual death rate in the 1970s, it was around 20,000. Of the total number of available funerary niches, 80 per cent were public and 20 per cent private.

No new government policy on columbariums has been introduced since the 1970s, even though over the past four decades, the death rate has more than doubled.

In other words, no effort has been made to come up with measures to cope with increased demand and balance public/private provision. The introduction of an updated policy is long overdue.

We ensure affordable housing is available to people on lower incomes, with the waiting time for a public housing flat being, on average, three years. Why do we not also have affordable "housing" for the deceased?

Grieving relatives have to bear the burden of a long wait for available niches. Often, they are too upset by the loss of a loved one to lodge a complaint about this state of affairs.

I accept that making provisions for the living is more important than helping families who have suffered a loss. However, there is a drastic shortage in terms of supply and an imbalance in private/public provision, with people taking advantage of the situation to build legal and illegal columbariums.

It is therefore clear that the government must address these problems.

It must strike the right balance between public and private supply to ensure that affordable niches are made available without the need to join a long waiting list.

Julia Lau, member, Town Planning Board