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Chinese official suggests 'green' burials

Chinese official suggests 'green' burials
Young Chinese soldiers perform burial duties of 280 biodegradable urns during a collective eco-burial ceremony at the cemetery of Tianjin, on July 20, 2010. The patented urns in China, are designed to contribute to the protection of the environment as space at cemeteries has become a serious issue in a country which has 1/5 of the world's population and has a death rate of up to 10 million a year. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo

BEIJING, April 8 (UPI) -- A lack of land and 9 million burials a year prompted Chinese officials to urge families to look for alternatives to traditional in-ground burials.

Li Xinjing, a spokesman for Beijing's civil affairs bureau, suggested Chinese choose a green burial -- such as scattering ashes at sea or burying ashes beneath trees -- to save money and the environment, USA Today reported Friday.

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If something isn't done, "Beijing will become just a city of tombs," said Zhang Hongchang, head of the official China Funeral Association.

Most Chinese expressed concern about rising prices for burial plots that made some cemeteries more expensive per square yard than some tony city apartments, the U.S. newspaper said.

Available land is sandwiched between deserts and mountains and urban cemeteries are nearing capacity meaning China "cannot give excessive space to the dead," Zhang said.

"If you want a tomb, you must accept it will only be for 20 or 30 years," he said, then ashes would be moved to a communal memorial. "People say, 'You can't touch my ancestors,' but you have chosen to live in the city" and must accept constraints, he said.

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