Officials across China are offering financial incentives, but the push toward watery graves hasn't met much success. Shanghai started offering sea burials in 1991, but in 2010 sea burials numbered in the low thousands while grave burials totaled 53,311.
Many local governments are rolling out their strongest pitches this week to coincide with the Qingming Festival, when families take a day off to sweep their ancestors’ graves. Critics worry that tradition and the meaning of ancestor-honoring rites are being trampled by the government initiatives.
In Guangzhou, officials recently announced a $160 bonus for families that scatter ashes at sea. In Shanghai, officials increased their offer from $65 to $320. The coastal cities of Shaoxing and Wenzhou are offering $800 and $1,290, respectively. The government often provides transportation, including all-expense-paid boat trips.
To cut down on space, cremation already is required by law in cities, but prices for even the tiny plots for burying urns have skyrocketed. Bureaucratic fears of chaos and anger once the country runs out of graves led to a more concentrated push for sea burials.