By Bejay Browne
OVERCROWDING at the municipal cemetery in Paphos is now so acute, according to a Paphos MP, that burials are even being crammed into the pathways between graves.
DIKO MP for Paphos, Antonis Antoniou, has highlighted the problem of overcrowding at the Metropolitan Cemetery in Kato Paphos in an open letter and called on the authorities to come up with solutions and fast.
The public cemetery, which was established in 1938, has been facing problems for years with plots being crammed in side by side, but the overcrowding is now so dire, that some areas are practically inaccessible to mourners as only inches separate graves.
Antoniou said in his letter that the problems are widely known; the municipal cemetery is overcrowded and in a poor condition and he pointed out that it is not possible to create new graves. He said that overcrowding has reached massive proportions.
“Burials are even taking place in the pathways of the cemetery and this is now an issue of human dignity,” he said. “The situation is at breaking point, and this is a terrible way to keep the memory of our deceased fellow citizens. Their final resting place should be undertaken with honour.”
Antoniou said the relevant municipality services must either expand the cemetery, or speed up the process for the operation of a new facility.
He said that in recent no progress has been made, mainly due to a lack of resources and suggested that private investors may be the way forward.
“Perhaps the authorities should consider the possibility of a municipal partnership with private investors for the expansion, construction and operation of a new cemetery. This would relieve the situation and bring about a final resolution of this longstanding problem.”
Angel Guardian Funeral Homes in Paphos have carried out between 100 and 150 funerals at the Metropolitan Cemetery in the last few years, and said they were informed that the last free spaces were available back in 2011, according to managing director, Maureen Watt.
“Since then they have opened up some of the pathways and it’s jam packed. It’s even very difficult for able bodied people to access in places, let alone the infirm or disabled,” she said.
Watt highlighted the distress which is being caused to some families, saying that mourners can’t easily access some parts of the cemetery and are unable to easily get to see loved ones’ graves.
“They can barely walk between the graves and there is no wheel chair access at all. We had an instance at a service there around a year ago; a close relative couldn’t go as he’s in a wheel chair and it was impossible for him.”
Angel Guardian have carried out funerals for all different nationalities at the cemetery including British, Greek, German, Romanian and Canadian.
According to Watts, the metropolitan is the only cemetery in Paphos that has temporary plots. The body will remain in a grave for six or seven years and then the remains are removed, put into a pillow slip and named, before being placed in to the mausoleum in the cemetery.
“We have undertaken about 30 temporary plots and a lot of people use this option for one reason or another. Some families will go on to turn it into a permanent plot, when they have managed to save up the money required.”
After payment has been made, a proper headstone can be installed.
It is currently 340 euros to open and close a grave (either to create a new one or to re-open for a spouse) at the Metropolitan Cemetery and then a further 850 for a permanent plot – a total of 1190 euros for a permanent grave, or 340 euros for a temporary one. There is no charge for the removal of remains to be placed in the mausoleum.
Watt said that prices can vary dramatically from area to area. The cemetery in Erimi is the only one to operate a set rate – 850 euros for a single plot and 900 euros for a double one – this includes the price of opening and closing the grave.
“The village cemeteries are very different and vary in price. They all charge for opening and closing a grave- around 200 euros, on top of the cost of a plot.”
She noted that the price of a grave in Chlorakas is 1,500 euros for people who have lived there for fewer than ten years, whilst residents of over ten years are charged 1,000 euros. Watt said that the ‘British side’ of Peyia cemetery costs 854 euros a plot, Tsada 1,300 euros, Geroskipou 500 euros and Droushia is 350 euros.
“In some other villages such as Tala, it’s very difficult to get a plot at all,” she said.
Mayor of Paphos Phedonas Phedonos told the Sunday Mail that he is aware of the problems at the cemetery and is meeting with the Minister of the Interior imminently to discuss the matter.
“The cemetery is full up and I am meeting with the minister to suggest some ideas and see if we can find a solution as quickly as possible. I will know more next week.”