Struggle for space in Hong Kong continues after death

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 May, 2015, 12:02am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 May, 2015, 12:02am

Because of lack of land, it is impossible to have sufficient homes for citizens. However, even in death, finding a niche for the remains of a loved one proves difficult.

With an average death rate of around 50,000 in Hong Kong, there is a great deal of demand for niches at columbariums. There are few places left now for people to be buried in cemetries.

For some time the government has encouraged citizens to opt for cremation, but faces difficulties because of the shortage of available columbariums.

From looking at official statistics I estimate that over the next 20 years we will need over more than one million niches to keep the ashes of the deceased.

There is clearly a big gap between supply of available places and the demand for them.

The government and other parties have in the past suggested rezoning an industrial site for a columbarium development, or redeveloping an old industrial building.

This would enable the construction of multi-storey columbariums with a substantial number of niches. It would appear to be a creative and viable solution.

However, efforts to move ahead with these initiatives have met opposition from nearby residents and the Town Planning Board. But while the board kicks back an application, it does not come up with suggestions to solve the serious problem of shortages of niches. Consequently, many Hong Kong citizens face a dual problem - finding suitable space to live during their lives and after they have passed away.

They face costly options at present if they want to bury a relative or use a private columbarium, with the costs skyrocketing in Hong Kong. This can lead to discontent and social instability. And it is another reason why Hong Kong's reputation could be damaged.

F. K. Hui, Yuen Long