Rally calls for columbarium rules

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Issue 1092, Page 4
Word count: 594
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

A group of Areia Preta residents will take to the streets this Sunday to push the Government to enact regulations in order to prohibit columbaria and crematoria from being installed in residential areas.

Rumours began to circulate last week that three street-level shops in the U Wa residential complex in Areia Preta would be established as places for the storage of cinerary urns and would include the installation of a furnace.

The owner of the shops, accompanied by lawmakers Chan Meng Kam and Ung Choi Kun, held a press conference last Saturday, where he stressed that he never intended to build a columbarium, and the shops were being renovated only to become the new office of his “Fujian Xiadian Village Compatriots Association of Macau”.

Despite the owner’s dismissal of the rumour, the residents are now worried that without related legislation in place, the same facility could be built in other neighbourhoods throughout the territory in the future.

Around 30 U Wa residents went to meet with the Environmental Health and Licensing Division of the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM) yesterday to express their concerns.

They also handed in a petition to the Government headquarters and met with the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT) respectively on Sunday and Monday.

After the meeting the residents said the IACM officials said that they would convey their demands to their superiors and give them a response as soon as possible.

In the meantime, a protest will be staged starting from the U Wa residential complex at 3 pm this Sunday and ending at the Government headquarters.

According to one of the residents, Mr Mak, the setting up of a columbarium in residential buildings is “no different from operating illegal guesthouses”.

“Just that it’s the dead people that live there,” he added.

Mr Mak told reporters that they believe columbaria and furnaces should be installed in an open space far away from where people live, or otherwise they will “affect residents’ quality of life, cause psychological impact on them and air pollution”.

Meanwhile, IACM president Tam Vai Man said on the sidelines of a district meeting that the bureau will look into allocating more places for the storage of cinerary urns in public cemeteries, as well as implement a feasibility study on the construction of crematoria.

Tam reiterated that there are still more than 1,000 columbarium niches in the municipal cemeteries available for application, which he believed can meet the demand in the next couple of years.

Lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong, who accompanied the concerned residents to yesterday’s meeting, said that the IACM confirmed to him back in April that after a city-wide inspection, no columbaria were found outside of the municipal cemeteries or individual temples in Macau.

“They can’t find any now doesn’t mean there will be none forever,” Ng said.

“I’m worried that because of the inspection result, the Government will ignore the need for regulation. But in fact it should be the best time to introduce the regulations when no columbaria have yet been installed in residential areas,” he added.

Since the operation of a columbarium can generate “significant commercial interests”, the lawmaker urged the Government to accelerate the legislative process in a bid to “avoid more problems in the future”.

Moreover, lawmaker Kwan Tsui Hang in her latest written interpellation also called for a special regulation to monitor the installation and operations of columbaria in Macau.

The renovation works in the three shops have already been suspended by the DSSOPT as they did not obtain a construction license from the authority beforehand.

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