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Opinions of Friday, 8 January 2010

Columnist: Anim, Ben

Campaign Against Burial Of Corpes In Individual Homes At Kpando

When death occurs in our society, it is invariably a sad event, however the decaying of the corpse and beliefs about death make the presence of the dead person among the living unacceptable. Throughout history, almost all societies have employed different practices of disposing of the dead and one such form is cemetery or burial ground.

Cemetery:

Cemetery is defined as a large area set apart for burial or getting rid of dead bodies, normally situated on the outskirts of a town or village. Cemeteries serve multiple purposes; besides disposing of bodies, it is a place where relationship between the family and dead is established and maintained. Consolation is taken from visits to the grave and planting flowers and decorating the plot.

Environmental Impact of Burial grounds: The impact of cemeteries on the environment have been neglected by many communities especially Kpando. A significant number of burial grounds contaminate our water resources. The decomposition of buried human corpse can have a negative impact on ground water, due to contamination that occurs as a result of organic residue and pathogens that are generated during the decomposition process. Germs and viruses and other substances from decomposing corpse can move through the ground water. The use of this soil can be harmful to health causing diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid fever, cholera and infectious hepatitis. Water is polluted or unfit for human consumption if the level of micro-organism is in significant quantity or harmful to humans. Clean and safe water is important to humans. Water plays an important role in human life and if contaminates it has a great potential for transmitting variety of diseases and illnesses. Research has revealed that 80% of all illnesses in developing countries are water related. One-quarter of the children born in developing countries will have died before the age of 5 years mostly from water related diseases.

In Kpando, tradition demand that chiefs are not buried in public cemeteries but in secret locations preferably at home. This practice emanated from the believe that opposition warriors might exhume the body of the chief and that could mean defeat or embarrassment to the town or traditional area. However, this practice have been flawed and currently, not only chiefs are buried at home but anybody. Corpses are now buried indiscriminately in homes, front and back gardens without any recourse to the effect this practice have on the environment. If precaution is not taken now, there is the potential of an outbreak of epidemic . In Ghana and Kpando for that matter, water is distributed through PVCu pipes buried in the ground. Most often the PVCu pipes break either through pressure from vehicular traffic or even severe hot weather condition. These burst pipes do remain unattended for days and bacteria are transmitted through the broken pipes to sources of use by the general public.

Who owns cemeteries:

Currently the only public cemetery in Kpando is running out of space. This is due to non- availability of land in the area. My research revealed that land for the current public cemetery was ‘donated’ or released by the people of Aziave. Land in Kpando has now become a commercial asset due to the commercial status of Kpando. The town is expanding at a fast rate due to population growth, status of a district capital. The town boasts of three highly rated high educational institutions. Obviously the afore mentioned have resulted in land owners jealously protecting their lands and are not willing to release it for public cemetery without any financial benefit.

Cemeteries were owned by religious groups, individual families and District Assemblies. It is believed that District Assemblies who are accountable bodies must finance, purchase and manage cemeteries in urban areas. The land purchased must be carefully landscaped with flowers, trees, drains and roads. Cemetery must be managed as a business venture. It must be self financing. Plots and graves are purchased by individuals at a commercial rate. This rate must cover the services for grave digging, and maintenance of the cemetery. This will eventually create jobs for the locals and generate income for the District Assembly.

Pitsea Cemetery- UK

Recommendations:

• The Kpando District Assembly should pass legislation prohibiting burial of corpses in homes and back gardens.

• The Kpando District Assembly should invest in the establishment of a public cemetery. A dedicated committee set up to manage and maintain the asset as an income generating venture.

• Existing rural community cemeteries such as Gadza, Adudzi, Fesi etc can sell plots in their cemeteries to others who do not hail from those communities at commercial rates and such proceeds will be used to maintain the cemetery.

• Environmental awareness programme should be implemented and community education pursed on the effect of burial grounds in homes and back gardens.

By BEN ANIM Concerned Citizen