UCA News

Macau adopts eco-friendly burial amid a rise in mortality

Experts say the rise in deaths might be linked to the loosening of the zero-Covid policy
Catholic graves in the mountain cemetery above Cigu church, Yunnan, China. The authorities in Macau started eco-friendly burying of ashes in a cemetery free of charge

Catholic graves in the mountain cemetery above Cigu church, Yunnan, China. The authorities in Macau started eco-friendly burying of ashes in a cemetery free of charge. (Photo: catholicsandcultures.org)

Published: March 01, 2023 11:26 AM GMT
Updated: March 02, 2023 10:54 AM GMT

The authorities in Macau started an environmental-friendly way of burying of ashes of the dead amid a rise in mortalities in the Chinese-ruled former Portuguese colony, says a report.

According to the Institute of Municipal Affairs (IAM) of Macau, starting from March 1 families can avail of “free of charge” funeral service available at Sá Kong Cemetery Memorial Garden in Taipa, Portuguese-language newspaper Hoje Macau reported.   

As per the official instructions, families can deposit the ashes of their loved ones in the Memorial Garden.

The ashes of the cremated bodies are to be initially placed in a biodegradable bag, to be buried in a hole in the garden. This hole is then covered with earth and the ashes over time mix with nature, the IAM said in a statement.

In the garden, designed in the shape of a flower, the families also have tombstones where they can put the name of the buried family members, so they can remember them whenever they want. 

The IAM said that the garden has 400 holes available and after some time, these can be reused to deposit more biodegradable bags with the ashes of other deceased people.

The agency pointed out that it has been conducting guided tours for interested people who can verify the spot to bury their loved ones. It added that the new plan for ecological burial is a constitution of similar schemes, such as the cremation of bones and the burial of ashes next to trees, launched in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

The initiatives became popular when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the city and left more than 8,121 infected and 121 dead, media reports say.

The move comes as official data showed Macau has recorded the highest number of deaths in decades. A total of 2,992 people died in Macau in 2022, the highest since 1970, shows data from the Directorate of Statistics and Censuses. In December, 773 people died.

The increase in mortality was about 30 percent or 710 more deaths compared to 2019, the agency said.

In contrast, the country recorded 7,499 live births last year, according to Country Meters, a website tracking data on population.

The rise in deaths came despite the fact the city rather successfully battled the Covid-19 pandemic with a strict health policy including several rounds of mass testing and contact tracing.

Health experts say though the coronavirus threat has subsided significantly, the abandonment of the zero-Covid policy left people vulnerable and triggered a rise in mortality.

Since the first outbreak in early 2020, Macau imposed strict lockdowns several times that brought the gaming and gambling industry, the mainstay of the city, to a standstill. Besides, all public offices, worship places, schools, and other businesses were closed.

During the crisis, church groups joined forces with the administration to provide food and other aid to people, especially expatriate workers who lost their jobs and income.

Macau has about 30,000 Catholics in nine parishes, among its estimated population of 700,000.

Catholic Church permits both burial and cremation of bodies for church members with proper documents such as a copy of the death certificate from the Macau Civil Registry, the Macau Identity Card, and the baptism certificate from the related parish, according to the Macau Diocesan website.

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