National oversight for burial sites

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The Antigua and Barbuda government is looking to bring all cemeteries under official oversight as part of plans to change local burial practices.
This was announced by Molwyn Joseph, the health minister, at a recent public consultation on the proposal for a new national cemetery in Potters. Only the new facility will be directly managed by the government.
There are currently 26 church cemeteries and nine community cemeteries in addition to the St. John’s Public Cemetery.
“What we propose to do, in addition to developing the national cemetery, is also to integrate into our effort, and it will be the responsibility of the Ministry of Health to undertake oversight of the other cemeteries other than the national cemetery, because what we wish to do is to have a standard across the board.
“As it is now there is no particular standard in the manner in which graves are located and where they are recorded, it’s very difficult to find gravesites of loved ones in Antigua and Barbuda,” Joseph said.
The new cemetery will be divided into 16 grave sections, individually named to assist site management with computer records kept of who is interred where.
The new facility will be located on 20 acres of land abutting the Heroes Park at Tomlinsons with the entire area to eventually be developed into a national park. An overall cost is still to be affixed to the project but work is expected to begin in the new year with a year-end or early 2019 completion date.
The new cemetery will house approximately 13,000 single depth standard graves with each one having the capacity to be double depth in order to house two bodies in one grave, the minister revealed.
“We are hoping that with this national cemetery it will last us for even longer than 130 years that we’ve had the (St. John’s) national cemetery,” Joseph stated.
The minister also said that grave liners will be introduced to encase caskets. The liners will be placed in the graves and caskets lowered into them.
“The use of grave liners, from what the experts tell us, is to create stabilisation at the burial site so that you do not have too much movement of the casket. Depending on how the burial place is prepared, if it’s not prepared properly, if it’s not compacted, you can have shifting of the casket. We’re trying to overcome that.
“Also, it helps to contain odour if you have to bury someone on top the other, that casket is encased.”
Joseph said they are still to work out the cost for utilising the cemetery but added that he believed the government could assist with that.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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