Sea burial, the green fad in grave-crunch BritainNovember 14th, 2008 - 1:45 pm ICT by IANS
London, Nov 14 (IANS) Burial at sea is gaining popularity in Britain with grave space going scarce. And, it’s also green.More and more people are opting for a watery send-off at the two locations off the British coast - near Isle of Wight and Newhaven in East Sussex - where the burials are allowed.
At these places no dredging, fishing, trawling or diving is allowed and the Marine and Fisheries Agency has to issue licences for every burial.
Fourteen sea burials have taken place this year and the number is expected to go up in future. People are even choosing the coast of their choice in their wills.
It is a costly affair at 4,000 pounds a head, compared to less than half that amount for a traditional burial in a graveyard.
And they are a green option as everything used is degradable. John Lister of the Britannia Shipping Company in Devon which runs a sea burial service, says: “The body must not be embalmed and is wrapped in a biodegradable cotton sheet. The coffin is made of marine plywood and nothing will be left of it after 36 to 40 months. There is no harm to the marine environment and the concrete which weights the coffin is broken down by salt water.”
Lister says his company charters a boat on the Isle of Wight, from where family and friends are taken to a designated burial point where the coffin is lowered into the sea from a mechanical ramp.
His company has already collected deposits from 150 people who have left instructions for a sea burial. “We are now seeing more hobby sailors and people who have moved to the coast and love the sea. It has captured the imagination and has a certain romance about it,” he says. “People think it is a pleasant ending.”
Alastair Monteith, 72, has been a seaman all his life. He lives by the sea near Dartmoor in Devon. His wife was given a sea burial and he says: “You go out to sea on a launch and the coffin is draped with the Union flag. Then there is a 15-minute service. I want it exactly as my wife had.”
Sea burial is slowly becoming an alternative with graveyard space shrinking in the country. Of the 600,000 who die each year, under a third are buried in graves.
A government survey shows that burial grounds in England and Wales will become full in about 30 years. In London the shortage is more severe. At least three boroughs have run out of space and some cemeteries have less than a decade left. Some London councils are even charging a premium of 1,000 pounds for each burial.
The Times reveals the government now plans, for the first time since the Victorian days, to exhume human remains in graveyards and rebury them deeper to create space for further burials on top.
Until the 1850s, bodies were routinely removed from graves but the practice was forbidden in 1852. If the plan is successful and the government agrees to change the law, it will amount to the biggest change in burial practices since cremation was introduced in 1902.