Burial space shortage at Pashupati


KATHMANDU, Nov 25 - His worries begin soon after a dead body is brought for burial. Ram Bahadur Tamang, a grave-digger with the Crematorium Management Service Committee (CMSC), Pashupati Aryaghat, finds it difficult to locate a spot to dig a new grave in Bhairab Danda that lies across the Bagmati River. Finding an empty space and burying the dead is crucial for his livelihood.

"It takes over half-an-hour to find a spot for a new grave these days. We have to dig at several places as we find human remains in most of the places we dig," said Tamang who has been involved in the work for the last 20 years.

The dead of the Rai, Limbu, Giri, Puri, and Sanyasi communities, as well as bodies of very young children are buried in Bhairab Danda, also known as Shleshmantak jungle. Officials at CMSC say the burial site, occupying some 30 ropanis of land, will have problem to accommodate dead bodies even this year.

Bhairab Danda is the only burial ground for these communities in the capital. Over the years, more and more graves have been squeezed in. Worse, there is no provision of marking system to trace the graves. "The area is almost totally filled with graves now. There is barely any open space to accommodate new burials," complained Tamang.

Bishnu Prasad Nepal, a CMSC official, said that growing population in Kathmandu valley has further aggravated the problem. "A few years back, we were burying one body a day," said Nepal who oversees the burial service. "Now we are burying four to five dead a day."

CMSC officials say they have repeatedly apprised the concerned authorities about the problem. "As no one responded to the problem, we are forced to reuse old graves," Nepal said.

The growing use of coffins has further complicated the problem, officials said. Bodies buried in coffins need at least 10 years to decompose, while those buried without coffins decay in two to three years. Officials worry that using coffins would further aggravate the shortage of burial space.

The shortage of burial space was first felt some five years ago. To address the looming lack of burial sites, Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) had even launched a drive to demolish concretized graves whose over ground structures were occupying extra space. PADT had to abort the effort after protests from the kin of those buried.

"As we have limited space, we are not in a position to provide new burial sites," said Shyam Shekhar Jha, director of PADT. "It is better late than never. The government should coordinate with the concerned authorities and find a long term solution to the problem."

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