The influence of cultural and religious perceptions

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Cultural and religious perceptions on planning for cemeteries in a Multi-cultural society

One of the hallmarks of humanity is the care taken in disposing the dead; however, the form that this takes varies significantly from culture to culture with religious beliefs playing a significant role determining acceptable burial practices.

Burial in cemeteries has been the accepted practice for the majority of South Africans, although many have preferred cremation.

Consequently, the provision of graveyards, cemeteries and crematoria is an essential function within urban settlements.

Cemeteries have traditionally been located on the edge of human settlements and as the urban areas sprawl outwards, they become less accesssible as travel distance increase.

According to a report prepared for the South African Local Government Association, older cemeteries, now engulfed within the urban areas, have filled up faster than anticipated due to both increases in urban population and the effect of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Accessible land in urban areas is in demand for production and housing purposes while spaces such as cemeteries cannnot compete on financial terms.

Among challenges for cemetery planning is thus to maximise land available and this may entail alternative burial practices.

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