Saturday 7 April 2018

Sea burial facility to be built along Tanah Merah shoreline; Inland ash-scattering garden opens in Choa Chu Kang on 17 May 2021

Families won't have to travel by boat to scatter ashes at sea once the facility is ready next year
By Jasia Shamdasani, The Straits Times, 6 Apr 2018

Families could soon opt to scatter the ashes of their loved ones at sea without having to travel by boat.

A new burial facility will be built along the shoreline in Tanah Merah, with a boardwalk that extends into the sea to allow the scattering of ashes.

The sea burial facility is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of next year. It will have four pavilions, each of which can accommodate seven people, and a shelter for 28 people, among other features, Lianhe Zaobao reported yesterday.

The facility will be open to any member of the public, regardless of race or religion.

Currently, ashes can be scattered at a designated site located about 2.8km south of Pulau Semakau, off southern Singapore. Those who choose sea burial will have to rent a boat to get to the site.

With the new facility, the National Environment Agency (NEA) hopes to make it more convenient for people to conduct their sea burial ceremonies and to protect the dignity and decorum of the proceedings.

Prior to construction, comprehensive consultancy studies and a study on the impact on the environment will have to be conducted.

Scattering of ashes at sea can cost about $100 without any ritual, or $400 to $480 with rituals, according to undertakers whom The Straits Times spoke to. It would cost at least $1,200 to place the ashes in a niche at a columbarium, they said.

Undertakers have seen an increase in the number of sea burial requests, with the majority coming from Buddhists and Hindus.

"In general, there is an increase in the number of people who opt for sea burial," said Mr Roland Tay, 71, funeral director of Direct Funeral Services.

This increase could be due partly to not wanting to put a burden on their family members during the annual Qing Ming Festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day, and the lower cost of sea burial.

"If a place can be dedicated for sea burial, many Hindus will be able to conduct burial ceremonies for their loved ones and I think many Hindus will appreciate it a lot," said Swami Vimokshananda, 69, president of Ramakrishna Mission Singapore.

Mr Ben Tay, 39, funeral director of Teck Hin Undertaker Funeral Services, said: "This facility will provide one more option for a larger ritual and will make it safer and more convenient for people with disabilities to attend the ritual."

NEA is also considering the feasibility of a land-based ecological burial service as an additional option for the placement of cremated remains. This will be confirmed by the end of this year.

* NEA: Sea burial site not a recreational beach

We thank Mr Jason Lim Swee Kay and Mr Lee Yu Xiang for their feedback (Don't put death in the middle of lively beach, April 12; Imperative to gain buy-in for sea burials, April 13).

The planned near-shore post-death rites facility will broaden the options available to bereaved families. The proposed location of the facility is not a recreational beach and is currently covered by dense undergrowth.

The strip of coastline along the site is also not planned for recreational purposes in the future.

The decision to site the facility at the Tanah Merah location was made after careful consideration and extensive consultation over several years with the relevant authorities. The facility owners and operators nearest to the proposed site were also consulted.

The National Environment Agency is currently procuring consultancy services, which include a study to minimise the environmental impact of the construction and operation of the proposed facility.

Relevant feedback and suggestions received will also be incorporated in the design and operation of the facility to preserve the dignity of the rites.

Construction works are expected to start next year and the new facility is targeted to be ready by the end of next year.

Wong Chiu Ying (Ms)
Director Facilities Planning and Development
National Environment Agency
ST Forum, 21 Apr 2018

What's the controversy behind sea burials?
As people voice mixed feelings about facility's location, NEA says it is not in recreational area
By Low De Wei and Esther Koh, The Straits Times, 21 Apr 2018

People reacted with mixed feelings when the National Environment Agency (NEA) said a new facility will be built on the Tanah Merah coastline for the scattering of human ashes.

The proposed site is south of the busy Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal and Changi Naval Base, but close to recreational areas to their west.

Up to five water sports centres dot the stretch of beaches nearby. They include the MOE Sea Sports Centre, NSRCC Sea Sports Centre, and the National Sailing Centre.

The proposed site sits in a bay conducive for water activities, thanks to breakwaters, which reduce the strength of the sea currents, said Mr Jason Lim Swee Kay.

The sailing enthusiast was the general manager of the Singapore Sailing Federation from 2010 to 2014. He now frequents the area to sail three to four times a week.

"If you go during the weekend, you will see sailboats, windsurfers, kayaks and stand-up paddling boards all over.There are as many as 150 to 200 people in the water," he said.

Sailing lessons, regattas and open-water swimming events are often held there as well.

But NEA said the proposed site is not a recreational beach and is currently covered by dense undergrowth. The strip of coastline along the proposed site is also not planned for recreational purposes in the future.

Furthermore, facility owners and operators nearest to the proposed site were consulted earlier, the authority said.


Dr Yeo Chor Tzien, a respiratory specialist at Gleneagles Medical Centre, said human ash is unlikely to pose any danger to one's health.

He said it is sterile and when dispersed in small amounts, will not contribute to air pollution.

"It will not clog the airways, cause airway inflammation, aggravate asthma or predispose one to lung cancer or infection," he added.

Direct Funeral Services founder Roland Tay said when ashes are released into the sea, "they flow with the waves to places far away".

"They are not affected by the water activities nearby, which are usually contained in an area closer to shore," he added.

Others raised the issue of pollution, which can happen when food offerings and incense materials - used during the rites - are dropped into the water.

This explains why urns are not allowed to be dropped into the water, according to Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore guidelines.

Questions have also been asked about the possible impact to marine life due to construction and site operations. The NEA said it is planning to conduct a study to minimise the environmental impact of the construction and operation of the proposed facility.

"Relevant feedback and suggestions received will also be incorporated in the design and operation of the facility to preserve the dignity of the rites," NEA added.

Construction is due to start next year and the new facility is targeted to be ready by the end of that year.


Singapore has seen a steady increase in demand for the scattering of ashes at sea, say businesses that offer funeral services.

Mr Tay said about 20 per cent of his clients who opt for cremation indicate a wish to have their cremated remains scattered at sea.

Five years ago, it was one in 10.

The practice helps resolve the issue of a lack of burial sites, and the cost of keeping cremated remains in a columbarium.

It costs between $80 and $100 to scatter ashes at sea.

The minimum cost of keeping a niche at a columbarium is a one-time payment of $500 at a government facility. The two run by the government are Choa Chu Kang Columbarium and Mandai Columbarium.

While the scattering of ashes is practised in other countries as well, the reception has been different.

Similar land scarcity issues in Hong Kong prompted the government to open applications for the scattering of ashes at sea in 1952.

But many locals felt that the practice disrespects the dead. In 2014, only 9 per cent of Hong Kongers who were cremated had their ashes scattered, and even fewer opted for it to be done at sea.

About 2,000 Germans opted to have their cremated remains scattered in the Northern and Baltic seas last year. The country has a population of 82 million.

The Chinese government also began promoting the practice in 1991, offering government subsidies and services to support it, but it did not catch on.

In Singapore, an area 2.8km south of Pulau Semakau is currently allocated as the official site for the scattering of human ashes.

However, the NEA said that it is also done informally in other locations.

"There are some community groups which conduct near-shore funeral rites with the scattering of cremated ashes at sea," said an NEA spokesman, who added that bereaved families have been doing so at secluded spots along the coastline.

This is different from burying bodies at sea, a practice that was conducted here in the past, but is no longer allowed.

One notable sea burial involved the highly respected medical practitioner Malcolm John Rattray, who died in 1931. He was laid to rest in the sea "two miles south-east of St John's Island".

A Malaya Tribune report described the burial: "As the coffin went over the side (of the boat), a seaplane from the (Singapore) Flying Club flew over and dipped in salute."

Future options for a final resting place
The Straits Times, 21 Apr 2018

On the way in Singapore...

Going Green

Environmentally friendly, this method involves depositing the cremated remains in a natural environment, either by scattering the ashes directly on the soil, or by placing them in a biodegradable urn among plants to decompose naturally.

The National Environment Agency is holding public consultations with relevant stakeholders and will announce its findings by year's end.

New ideas overseas

Eternal Reefs

Crushed bones of the dead, left over from cremations, can find a new lease of life as homes for fishes and organisms that live in reefs.

Georgia-based Eternal Reefs has developed an artificial reef material by mixing concrete and crushed bones. This material is shaped into orbs and placed in areas that require reef restoration.


Developed by Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Masak, promession involves freeze-drying a corpse using liquid nitrogen. The frozen body is then disintegrated by vibration using a mechanical device. The weight of the remains is only 30 per cent of the original mass. This is placed in a biodegradable casket.

Alkaline hydrolysis

A greener alternative to the typical cremation involving fire, alkaline hydrolysis is done using an alkaline solution made with potassium hydroxide. It reduces the body to a skeleton. This controversial method of "liquefying" human remains and releasing it into the sewage system has limited public appeal and faced regulatory obstacles in various Western countries.

** Sea burials in Tanah Merah: NEA to work with sailing fraternity amid opposition
Environmental impact study planned amid opposition from sea sports community
By Low De Wei, The Straits Times, 7 May 2018

Since the National Environment Agency's (NEA) plan to build a facility for families to scatter the ashes of loved ones into the sea was first reported last month, there has been growing opposition from the sea sports community.

The unhappiness has to do with the planned facility being built near recreational activity centres such as the National Service Resort and Country Club (NSRCC) Sea Sports Centre and the Ministry of Education (MOE) Sea Sports Centre in Changi Coast Walk.

In a reply published in The Straits Times' Forum page today, the NEA affirmed its intention to engage the sailing fraternity in a planned environmental impact study.

This came after an online petition by user "Sailing Parent" urged the NEA to reconsider the Tanah Merah shoreline as the site for the new facility. Since it was posted on April 29, the petition on has garnered the support of at least 1,580 people.

A day before the petition was launched, most of the 25 trainers, operators and visitors ST spoke to voiced their objection, citing the insensitivity of conducting death rites near a lively recreational area, for both the living and the dead.

"How will the bereaved or parents feel if their child accidentally ingests someone's ashes?" asked Pastor Andrew Choo, who runs a weekly stand-up paddling session in the area for children with autism.

Mrs Jolene Tan, whose 10-year-old son's sailing training takes place in the area, remembers her grandmother's sea burial as being a "solemn and emotional" affair. How can it be that way when there are "loud planes flying overhead" and "children laughing and shouting" nearby, she wondered.

"Will you feel a sense of peace in such an environment?" she asked.

In an earlier reply in the ST Forum page on April 21, the NEA said "relevant feedback and suggestions" would "be incorporated in the design and operation of the facility to preserve the dignity of... rites".

But this was not enough to appease many like former national sailor Yeo Ngak Hoe, 64, who wants the NEA to reveal more about its process for selecting the location.

"There are better sites in the west or north, with minimal recreational activities and deep waters... Why were they not chosen instead?"

In its reply today, the NEA said it has been working with the relevant authorities since 2010 to identify a suitable site.

It declined to comment when asked whether the results of the environmental impact study might prompt a rethink of the facility's location, or what other prospective locations were considered or might be available. It added that the facility is targeted to be ready by the end of next year.

Meanwhile, businesses in the area wanted to know why they had not been consulted earlier.

"We found out about it only through the newspapers... No one has reached out to us since," said Mr Ho Kah Soon, director of Constant Wind, a sea sports school at the NSRCC Sea Sports Centre.

The NEA, in its April 21 reply, said the location was decided after the "facility owners and operators nearest to the proposed site were also consulted". But none of the businesses in the NSRCC Sea Sports Centre is known to have been consulted before April 21.

In response to ST queries, the NSRCC on April 26 would say only that it had "earlier met with the NEA and discussed issues relating to operations in the current site".

MOE, which operates the MOE Sea Sports Centre, declined to comment.

*** Ministry of Education: Consultations ongoing for sea burial site

We thank Mr Tay Yew Chee for his feedback (How can 'sailing parents' understand rationale if MOE doesn't comment?; May 9).

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has not commented on the project because consultations are ongoing with the National Environment Agency (NEA), to help the ministry better understand the nature and scale of the operations of the site.

MOE is also gathering feedback from users of the MOE Sea Sports Centre, and will share the feedback with NEA.

Ong Kim Soon
Director, Physical, Sports & Outdoor Education Branch
Student Development Curriculum Division
Ministry of Education
ST Forum, 14 May 2018

Site for sea burial facility chosen after careful consideration

We thank Dr Leslie Kuek for his feedback (Sea current will carry ashes to recreational area; April 27).

Since 2010, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has been working with the relevant authorities to identify a suitable site in Singapore for conducting rites prior to scattering cremated remains at sea.

This is in response to requests received from some members of the public for such a facility, to preserve the dignity and decorum of the proceedings, which hitherto had been conducted at other spots along the coastline, and to make the provision of after-death care facilities in Singapore more comprehensive.

The selection of this Tanah Merah site was done with careful consideration of other competing needs, and in consultation with the various authorities that represent the interests of their constituent stakeholders.

NEA is currently procuring consultancy services, which include a study to minimise the environmental impact of the construction and operation of the proposed facility.

Separately, we have also received requests from the sailing fraternity to be included in the environmental impact study, and we will be engaging it.

We will work closely with the relevant authorities to incorporate the feedback and suggestions of various interested parties in the design and operation of the facility.

Wong Chiu Ying (Ms)
Director Facilities Planning and Development
National Environment Agency
ST Forum, 7 May 2018

**** NEA to introduce Inland Ash Scattering Services in Singapore by 2020
Service to be available at two sites; decision follows public consultation by NEA
By Felicia Choo, The Straits Times, 23 Jun 2018

By 2020, people will be able to scatter the ashes of their loved ones inland, besides the current options of scattering ashes at sea or keeping the remains in a niche.

Inland ash scattering will be available at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery Complex in 2020 and Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium Complex in 2021, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said yesterday.

The Straits Times understands that ashes could be scattered in a garden within the facilities.

The decision to introduce the service followed a series of consultations held from August to December last year, involving religious groups, after-death care service providers and the public, said NEA. It has been studying the option since 2014, including how it is implemented in other countries.


The industry and stakeholders were consulted on various aspects of inland ash scattering services, such as design criteria, user experience, operational procedures, booking arrangements as well as cultural and religious needs.

The groups suggested, for example, that the scattering of ashes should be respectful and dignified, and the facility should be secular and open to all faiths.

"Overall, the industry and key stakeholders welcomed the provision of inland ash scattering services at government-run facilities as an additional option for the management of cremated human remains," said NEA.

The agency will be calling tenders from this year for the design and development works for the two facilities.

Religious leaders are positive about having an additional option to manage cremated remains.

"Some would still prefer the traditional option of burial or laying the ashes in the columbarium, but it is a welcome option for others," said Bishop Terry Kee, president of the National Council of Churches of Singapore. Bishop Kee, who was involved in the consultation process, had suggested that the place be large enough to accommodate mourners, provide sufficient privacy for them and be beautifully landscaped.

Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, president of the Singapore Buddhist Federation, said: "More people are choosing sea burials, which can be inconvenient for the elderly who need to get on a boat."

Other places that practise inland ash scattering include South Korea, China, Taiwan, the United States and Australia.

***** First coastal facility for post-death rites to be built at Changi Beach but no sea burial site at Tanah Merah: NEA
No scattering of ashes will be allowed
By Shabana Begum, The Straits Times, 31 Dec 2020

The first coastal facility for post-death rites will be built at Changi Beach, but the National Environment Agency (NEA) will not proceed with a previously announced sea burial site in Tanah Merah.

Following extensive review and consultations with relevant public agencies and stakeholders, the site at Changi Beach - located behind Carpark 2 and between two pavilions - will be designated for conducting post-death rites, said the NEA in a statement yesterday.

The site will not be used for the scattering of ashes, which is done at designated locations, including a site south of Pulau Semakau.

The Changi Beach site has a carpark and toilets, and is near public bus services. NEA said more detailed parameters of the facility are being worked out.

In 2018, NEA announced a sea burial facility that will be built along the shoreline in Tanah Merah, with a boardwalk that extends into the sea to allow the scattering of ashes.

But the plan received opposition from the public and the sea sports community, as up to five water sports centres, including the National Sailing Centre, are located near the proposed site.

There were also concerns over the possibility of swimming among - or even ingesting - human remains.

NEA then commissioned an Environmental Impact Study. Although it did not highlight any significant adverse impact if the facility were built in Tanah Merah, a preliminary design study identified some safety concerns.

It found that it was not feasible to conduct post-death rites in the area due to the gradient of the beach and sea tidal conditions at the site.

The facility at Changi Beach, which will be properly demarcated and enclosed, is in response to public feedback to preserve the dignity and decorum of after-death proceedings, and to ensure adequate provision of after-death facilities.
It will be open to all communities, although the Hindu community is expected to be the main users.

Such rites will mostly be conducted during pre-dawn hours, thus minimising any inconvenience to beach users, said the NEA.

The Hindu Advisory Board's chairman, Mr Rajan Krishnan, said he is pleased that the Hindu community will have a proper designated site for post-death rituals, and he hopes that the Changi Beach site will be sheltered.

"Currently, many in the community would go to an open spot near a carpark at Changi Beach, place a mat on the ground and conduct simple prayers, and take a dip in the sea before completing the rites," he said.

"We've been asking for a proper place with shelter, so that if it rains, we can conduct the rites with more decorum."

The NEA did not specify if the new site will be sheltered.

The scattering of ashes in the sea usually happens three days after cremation, and post-death rites are usually conducted after 11 or 30 days following the death, added Mr Rajan.

Mr Simon Pugalenthi, director of Khailaash Funeral Services, said the Changi Beach site is the "next best option" than the previously proposed site in Tanah Merah which is not as accessible.

Mr Chung Pei Ming, general manager of the Singapore Sailing Federation, said NEA has been thorough in its engagement with the affected communities in Tanah Merah and it is a "win-win for everyone" to settle on the Changi site.

****** Singapore to open first inland ash-scattering garden in Choa Chu Kang on 17 May 2021
By Deepa Sundar, The Straits Times, 12 May 2021

Singapore’s first inland ash-scattering garden, Garden of Peace, will be operational from May 17.

Developed by the National Environment Agency (NEA), the 9,500 sq m garden will provide another option for the management of cremated human remains in land scarce Singapore.

Garden of Peace was developed in response to interest expressed by the public for such practices to be made available in Singapore.

Ms Khoo Siew Eng, a volunteer at Green Burial Movement, said: “If everyone chooses to store the ashes in a columbarium, more of them will have to be built. Meanwhile, the ash-scattering garden takes up only a single plot of land.”

The ash-scattering garden at the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery Complex is a secular facility open to all religious faiths and adopts an open garden concept, with designated lanes for walkways and ash scattering.

NEA had conducted extensive consultations and engagements with religious groups and the funerary industry during the development of the garden.

Similar dedicated facilities are also found in New Zealand, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Mr Chew Ming Fai, NEA deputy chief executive officer and director-general of public health, said: “There was an emphasis that the facility should adopt a serene garden feel, where family and friends would be accorded privacy during the act of ash scattering.”

Boundary shrubs and vegetation have been planted to clearly demarcate the garden boundary and provide sufficient privacy for visitors, a feature suggested by religious leaders during the consultation.

There are four ash-scattering lanes in the garden, designed intentionally to accord families with privacy. The lanes are designed to allow ashes to naturally percolate into the soil underneath.

Bishop Terry Kee, vice-president of the National Council of Churches of Singapore, who was involved in the consultation process, said: “We are very happy that all feedback were graciously received. We appreciate the efforts taken to provide this additional option.”

Venerable Shi You Guang, chairman of general affairs committee at Singapore Buddhist Federation, said: “Inland ash scattering is a pragmatic alternative supporting bereaved families who wish to have a green and logistically friendly manner towards closure after completing their loved one’s journey.”

Mr Calvin Tang, president of the Association of Funeral Directors Singapore, said: “People may prefer to scatter ashes inland as, in a sense, they will know the exact resting place of their loved ones and can drop by to pay respects. That’s not the case when you scatter the ashes in the sea.”

Religious ceremonies or rites will not be permitted in the garden, but visitors may use the prayer facility near the north gate of the Garden of Peace to conduct simple rites.

Those who wish to scatter ashes at the garden will have to pay a $320 fee which covers the cost of pulverisation of cremated human remains into fine ashes, a canister to store the ashes and a two-hour session at the garden.

Under current Covid-19 restrictions, no more than five people are allowed per session, excluding funeral directors.

A second inland ash-scattering facility, Garden of Serenity, at the Mandai Crematorium Complex is in development and expected to be operational next year.

Those who wish to apply for inland ash scattering may do so via NEA's online ePortal.


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