Shortage of burial plots sends funeral cost soaring

Prices of burial plots in Ho Chi Minh City and the two adjacent provinces of Binh Duong and Long An are increasing significantly and in a shortage despite the frozen property market.

Panorama of HCMC. A severe shortage of lands in the city lead local authorities to encourage cremation (Photo:Phan Hien)

Statistics show that burial plot’s cost has moved up sharply since the HCMC People’s Committee removed the Binh Hung Hoa Cemetery in Binh Tan District in 2008.

The move is meant to improve the city’s sightseeing and environment, as well as protect the underground water sources from being polluted.

The living conditions in Binh Hung Hoa have concerned city authorities for years.

Since 2006, the municipal administration has instructed concerned agencies to relocate the bodies buried in Binh Hung Hoa Cemetery to Binh Chanh District’s Da Phuoc Cemetery and several other zoned cemeteries in the city.

The city gave district-level authorities until September 2008 to clear the site.
After they failed to do so, the city issued another decree, calling for the dead to be relocated.

Most recently, the HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment and Binh Tan District People’s Committee, the district government, have proposed a detailed plan to prevent further burials by this month’s end.

Analysts say the new cemetery Da Phuoc in the outlying district of Binh Chanh is too small to meet up the annual demand of up to 40-50 hectares of burial plots in HCMC.

Construction work on Da Phuoc Cemetery with the total area of 67 hectares included many phases, said Nguyen Thanh Son, deputy director of the public services provider Citenco, which is the contractor of the Da Phuoc Cemetery project.

An area of 7.5 hectares is available in the first phase, while the HCMC Department of Finance is setting up retail prices of burial plots with an area of nearly 11 hectares in the next phase.

The cemetery offers an average amount of 100 burial plots monthly, meeting up a bit of the demanding amount of the city.

Fears of surging cost of burial plots have forced some people to register with the cemetery’s management board to book plots for their relatives. However, their request is undone as the board is allowed to sell to those, who have funeral license granted by local authorities.

A simple burial on an area of around 3 square meters at Da Phuoc Cemetery costs VND31 million (US$1,550) – an expense that low-income earners definitely cannot afford.

Property brokers say burial plots at private graveyards, which are located in residential zones, are even much more expensive than ones at Da Phuoc Cemetery.

The graveyard located in the backyard of Phong Linh Pagoda in District 9 offers plots at with the area of 4.5 square meters at the price of VND80 million ($4,000), according to a broker in the district.

Citenco’s Son expects the price of burial plots in HCMC and the two adjacent provinces will hardly decline due to the increase in clearance compensation and building materials.

HCMC’s authorities encourage cremation due to a shortage of lands. The ratio of cremations in the city and the adjacent provinces amounts to 55 percent of the total number of dead people annually.

By Minh Tuan and Thanh Vy – Translated by Cong Minh

Other news