Shortage of burial plots; some cemeteries likely to close

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Shortage of burial plots; some cemeteries likely to close

At least six regional corporations are short of burial plots at some of the cemeteries under their control.

They are: San Juan/ Laventiile, Penal/Debe, Sangre Grande, Princes Town, Tunapuna/Piarco and Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo.

The has become so severe that they have been forced to approach the Commissioner of State Lands Paula Drakes for new burial sites or additional land to bury the dead.

According to a GML report, some of the other corporations are even seeking advice from their legal team, the Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) and its engineers.

The lack of burial plots is being attributed to the 4,000 plus COVID-19-related deaths during the pandemic as well as the climbing murder rate.
Between 2019 to 2023 the country recorded 2,562 murders.

San Juan/Laventille Regional Corporation (SJLRC) chairman Richard Walcott, told the media house that only two of its four cemeteries- La Fillette and San Juan have been operational. The two other sites- Mountain View and St Ann’s have been closed for more than a decade.

Walcott said of the 901 burial plots at the San Juan Cemetery, 98 per cent have been filled.
He said the plan is to close this cemetery.

He said the corporation’s health officers would seek the council’s approval to shut the gate of this burial ground which is more than a century old.

“We have to go by their advice. That proposal will be coming to the council shortly. The council will have to decide on that. If the cemetery is overpopulated then we have to close it. There is no two ways about it,” he said.

He added that the La Fillette Cemetery along the North Coast is 65 per cent filled and said one option the corporation has looked at, was to reopen Mountain View and St Ann’s burial sites.

Mountain View was closed to the public due to land slippage.
Ten years ago the corporation closed the St Ann’s Cemetery after 98 per cent of plots were filled. 

“We would have to see if we can resume burials there. We are awaiting a report from our health team to find out if it can be done,” he said.

Last October, Walcott and a team of corporation technocrats met with Drakes and requested lands for a new San Juan Cemetery.

He said sourcing land in this area was difficult.

“The Commissioner of State Lands has appointed one of her agents who is working closely with the corporation to find that necessary land for the cemetery. The corporation made proposals and suggestions of potential sites and they are presently being investigated by the commissioner’s office with regular feedback given to the chairman’s office,” he said.

Walcott said the corporation remains hopeful. He also hopes to construct a crematorium.

“We spend something like over $200,000 in maintaining cemeteries per year. If we close the San Juan Cemetery it would cost us more because we would have to ensure it’s properly secured and maintained. People have their loved ones there and you don’t want anyone to desecrate the graves,” Walcott said.

Of the 22 public cemeteries the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation (SGRC) manages in the northeastern region, councillor Calvin Seecharan said Turure and La Seiva Cemeteries have space constraints.

“They are almost full,” said Seecharan who is chairman for recreational grounds and open spaces at the SGRC.

Chairman of the SGRC Kenwyn Phillip said the issue of cemeteries running out of space was brought to the council’s attention recently.

“We will raise again it at our next statutory meeting.”
He said there are no lands available to extend these cemeteries.