The recent protest by residents at the entrance of the Hindu burial and cremation grounds in Buntong against the construction of a modern crematorium on a property owned by the Hindu Paripalana Sabah of Ipoh is a sad reflection of the Hindu community.
The protesting residents are worried that their health and peace will be affected if the construction of the crematorium is allowed to proceed. They claimed that the Department of Environment (DOE) has not approved the crematorium due to its proximity to residential areas. The department’s regulations stipulate that a buffer zone of 200 meters is required. The proposed site, apparently, does not meet this requirement.
I understand the feelings of the residents affected, especially those who make a living attending to the many open-burning rituals. The Hindu Devastanam Paripalana Sabah in Ipoh and the state authorities should look into the residents’ concerns and work out an amicable solution. We should not ignore their fears. The state authorities and community leaders should step in and help settle the problem.
The residents who are protesting against the building of the crematorium should be reasonable and must take into consideration the needs and wishes of Hindus in Ipoh. At the moment there is not a single crematorium in the city that caters to them. Hindus who wish to cremate their loved ones have to travel far away to perform the rites and that too in non-Hindu crematorium grounds.
Many of the Hindus I met are grateful to the state government for allocating RM1.3 million to the Hindu Devastanam Sabah of Ipoh for the crematorium. They are also concerned for the affected residents and are hoping that a win-win formula is worked out so that the building of the crematorium can proceed without delay.
We cannot dismiss the needs and feelings of the majority of the Hindu public who are looking forward to the building of a modern crematorium for many decades.
The fears of the residents may be due to a breakdown in the communication between the residents and the Hindu Devastanam Sabah of Ipoh. It could also be the work of certain quarters who are exploiting the sentiments of those affected.
Modern crematoriums are fitted with high-tech gadgets to mitigate all kinds of pollution emitted during the incineration process. These crematoriums are environmental-friendly and relatively safe for city folks’ needs. They follow stringent operating procedures. As such the residents should not be unduly worried of the safety and health aspects.
Open burning of corpses, as is currently practised, is more hazardous to humans and the environment. There is practically no pollution control for this traditional method of cremating. Generally, many Hindus do not like to speak openly about this, as a mark of respect for the religion and its associated rituals.
Buntong’s population, especially the Indian community, is on the rise. It is appropriate that a modern crematorium be built to phase out open-burning of corpses in this densely populated area. Those who wish to continue with the traditional method can do so in other open Hindu cremation grounds.
I appeal to all parties concerned to put their differences aside and unite for the interest of the community. The affected residents should also be realistic about their demands and be wary of those who are trying to exploit them. The land, where the crematorium is supposed to be built, belongs to the Hindu Paripalana Sabah. It is a private property.
In the meantime, I urge DOE to review its requirements regarding buffer zone. With the advance in science and technology, modern crematoriums are relatively safe to be built and operated near human dwellings.